I love writing people’s stories. It’s still one of the best ways to preserve your personal history. But it’s not the only way. What about video?

Ever since big, bulky VHS cameras put video recording into the hands of regular people, sitting Grandpa down to tape his story has been a must-do family activity. That’s not to say every family does it. Some families never find the time. For others, the right time passes and they end up wishing they had.

Still, doing a video interview seems like it might be easier than documenting stories in writing. However, there are a few things to consider before you start:

The Storytelling: Few people are able to tell stories from beginning to end without diversions. That’s the nature of oral storytelling. And it works just fine around the dinner table when the storyteller takes detours and adds side commentary. The problem is, family members will hesitate to watch a video if it’s long and rambling. This brings me to my next point:

Editing: Video has come a long way, and editing has become significantly easier. But it still has to be done. This means someone cutting down hours of recorded material into an interesting narrative. This will take time, but it’s a vital step to making the video watchable. (If you’re expecting a family member to do this, see if you can convince a teenager. You may have to pay them, but short of hiring a professional videographer, no one knows their way around the technology like a teen).

Practicalities: Logistics can add challenges to a personal history video. Distance, for example. If you only get to see a parent or grandparent for a few days each year, it’s hard to squeeze in a video shoot – especially if the house is full of grandchildren. Written storytelling can happen at a distance, with interviews by phone and follow-up questions and edits happening on email. It also gives you an excuse to connect more often with your relatives.

Archiving and Distributing: Once you’ve recorded and edited a personal history video, you’ll want to share it and make sure it’s saved for future generations. You could send out a bunch of thumb drives, put it on YouTube, or save it to the cloud. There are several options, but like any evolving technology, you’ll want to make sure the format you choose won’t become obsolete. This is where I put in one more plug for good old fashioned writing. Books are sharable, accessible, and save-able. And, contrary to what you’ve heard, people are reading more than ever before.

However you choose to document your stories or capture family history, the first thing is to just do it. I personally favor the permanence and control of written stories. But it never has to be either-or. Video does a wonderful job of capturing the face, the voice, and the personality of your family members.

If you’d like help writing your personal history, contact me. If you’re considering a video, I can connect you with some professionals who will do a great job for you.

Copyright Liz Behlke 2018