Family History Recording

This week I’ve had the pleasure of working on a video recording someone’s life history. This is a pet project of mine that I love to do being a real family history fan.

I launched the service about 8 years ago, long before the Who do you think you are series on television started, calling it at the time Histodvdgraphy rather than Family History recording. I thought it was going to be a real hit and money maker but the truth of the matter was because it was just a page on my web site when launched rather than setting up a whole new web site for the service it got overlooked.

Marketing is a fickle thing and with hindsight perhaps a new and separate web site might have been the better way to go but I was busy with both photography and other video projects at the time taking general commissions etc so I didn’t decide to go down that route.

The Family History market as I’ve since found out is a very strange beast, certainly lots of punters in the market and certainly a lot of money in the age groups that seem to be interested in this area but also a market and hobby that is not a big spending hobby. Everyone is interested in finding out about their ancestors more than relating their own family history and life story.


An image for the DVD cover artwork.

What people don’t realise is that many past generations have recorded their life stories and own history in the form of diaries, books, postcards and letters and these are the jewels that the family history hobbyist dreams of finding yet none of them seem to connect this with the requirement to do the same for future generations with the technology we have available today!

Luckily this week an enlightened party decided now was the time to record the life and times of one of their parents. A wise move as the lovely lady of 83 was still in command of all her faculties and could even remember all the names of her infant school teachers.

The skill in doing this kind of Family History work is obviously first having an interest in people and the subject. Then it’s important to know how to tease out those important little stories that illustrate how different the landscape and social life was in the past.

Normally in this kind of job the story comes out in a bit of a ramble, moving from one subject and story to another related subject without including all the facts. This then results in a pause while I ask further questions to get the detail needed on any particular subject.


Including old pictures and articles adds to the DVD experience

The end result can be up to a couple of hours footage that I always shoot from two angles because when it comes to the edit you can add in the detail seamlessly by moving from one camera angle to the other. If one tried to capture the whole thing on one camera you would either have rough joins visually or have to locate a separate still image to cover each cut.

Like most visual jobs family history recording does become a labour of love and probably I spend far too much time perfecting the end result for the job to be highly profitable. But to know you have produced something that not only makes the client happy but is also out there as a testament to the quality of my work is reason enough to strive for the best possible end result. Also at the end of the day that DVD or digital file will become a family heirloom and something I will be remembered for as having instigated.

If you have elderly relatives, or you might be mature in years yourself do seriously consider getting your life story recorded professionally. First you don’t realise that all the things you have lived through is ancient history to the younger generations. Secondly, even the most mundane of lives have a story that will be of great interest to future generations. Thirdly, who better to tell your life story than you yourself?


By Brian Russell

Copyright July 2014.