Family Historians: Preserving Your Stories

Do you want to know how to make your family cry? Show them a video of their beloved grandparents who have passed-on. At least, that is how I did it.

Back in 1997, I proposed an idea to my maternal grandparents (Papa and Grandma to us kids). I asked them if they would like to make a cooking video with me the following day. Being the wonderful people that they were, they showed-up the next day – Papa with his video camera and Grandma dressed-to-be-seen with a bag of groceries.

We spent the day in my mom’s kitchen videotaping Grandma making ‘Pasties’, a meat and potatoes pastry that is a family favorite. I chose this recipe because it would be most widely appreciated by brothers and cousins.

After a few months wrestling with my editing system (computers and video didn’t get on well back in 1997) I finished a version of the video. I gave copies on VHS to family members for Christmas and moved on to other things.

Well, Papa died about 5 years ago and Grandma followed him about a year later. My kids (3 and 5 years old at the moment) never had a chance to meet or know two of the most important people in my life – but now they can see them in action.

In February 2012 I found a copy of that video and loaded it up onto YouTube to share with the world. Through the joys of social media, I shared it with my family who posted up comments about crying while watching and shared the links with their friends. Other more distant family members have seen it as well and the result has been a wonderful time of reminiscing and sharing the family story.

One week after posting on YouTube, the video has been watched 433 times (nearly doubled since yesterday) That means a whole lot of folks who never met my grandparents are getting to know them through this video – and learning to make pasties like a Yooper (the name for people that live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – aka the U.P. Grandma and Papa came from the Ironwood/Hurley area on the border of Michigan and Wisconsin.)

Back when we were making the video, I knew that it would be a valued family keepsake. But, I never could have guessed that ways it would touch people years later. It is not a random photo discovered in a shoebox. It is a conscious effort by my grandparents (with a little help from me and my parents) to pass on a piece of family history.

I wrote an article about how to make a recipe video to preserve a your family history. I also included the pastie video as an example of the finished product when you follow the process I outlined. You can learn about how we made this video and watch it here:

Click Here To Learn How To Make A Recipe Video (plus see the “Pastie Video”)

This site (www.ReelHistories.com) was set up to help people become family historians using video. It’s a work in progress, but the projects area has some excellent info about ways to capture meaningful stories for future generations.

Up next, I’ll be making a recipe video with my daughters and (finally) editing the life story interviews and another recipe video I recorded with Grandma and Papa.

Andrew Seltz

Andrew was born in Michigan, raised there and in Tennessee, and has since lived outside Orlando, in Chicago, New York City, and now Birmingham, Alabama. He produces videos and websites for a living and is married to a beautiful, generous, loving woman who also happens to be a talented actress and writer - www.ellenseltz.com. They have two daughters.

2 thoughts on “Family Historians: Preserving Your Stories

  • March 11, 2013 at 11:11 pm
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    Andrew,

    You did a wonderful job with your grand parents and the video sir! As I sat here and watched your grand mother work and explain things as she went along, I was reminded of both of my grand mothers cooking for me. While I do not have any children, it would have been great to have a film of them cooking a family old traditional recipe.

    I especially enjoyed the comment about rutabaga and some folks not wanting them in their pasty! I am with your family, my grand mother made rutabaga for me all the time. I also like it when she said the Kilponen family eats their pasty with ketchup, just great to see that and feeling happy. Keep up the good work Andrew and thanks again.

    Respectfully,

    Charlie

  • March 26, 2013 at 9:57 am
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    Charlie,

    Glad you liked the video. It’s amazing how many thousands of times it has been viewed since I posted it to YouTube and I enjoy the positive responses it has generated from people she never met.

    Videos like this are a great way to capture a sense of the person and also the recipe. My own kids never got to know my grandparents like their older cousins. But, they will see them when they watch these videos and have a better sense of them than I have of my great grandparents.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

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