Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Film Your Living Ancestors

[Note: The story of James F. Price of the 1st Maryland Cavalry will be continued tomorrow]

     One of my great joys is volunteering at a local retirement community where I offer monthly “genealogy” classes. To be honest, there isn’t a lot of teaching that happens in class. The ladies and gentlemen who participate mostly tell me stories about their lives and ask that I find things for them: father’s immigration records, a missing uncle who was rumored to have been in trouble with the law (he was – the feds were after him for bank fraud!), mother’s siblings, etc. 
     It gives them pleasure to hold a single document tying them to their past, and it gives me the opportunity to do a lot of “quick and dirty” genealogy: get in, get the document, and get out. They provide the story.      Late last fall I toted my trusty camera with me and filmed the members of my class telling their stories. The purpose was two-fold: to show my students how easy it is to be on camera, and to show their families how simple it is to record their living ancestors telling the stories of their lives. 
     One of the gentlemen who has faithfully attended with his daughter was Gil. He had a hard time hearing me, but he told me the best stories about his life, and he was secretly my favorite student. 
     The flu, my car accident, and Christmas intervened so that I was not able to get the DVD copies of the stories to my class but they know I am bringing them with me today. Sadly, Gil won’t be there to receive his. His daughter emailed me to let me know that Gil passed away a few weeks ago. So today I will hand his daughter a memory: one of the last times her father was healthy and happy and sharing his stories. 
     Over and over I preach to my clients (and to my readers and my friends) the importance of filming their living ancestors telling their stories. While intellectually we know that these loved ones won’t be here forever, we often put off recording them telling their stories until it is too late. 
     If you have older family members still alive let me suggest that you head off to visit them this weekend and film them telling your favorite stories. Trust me, you will treasure every minute of your recordings.

     Thank you Gil for sharing your life and your stories with me.

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