Attorney Barbara Moss Makes Family DVDs for Gifts, and so can you!
Barbara Moss told me of her family history video activities when we were at a party for the Nashville Senior Directory. She videotapes and edits interviews with the family’s older generation and gives them as gifts. I specialize in writing, but have great respect for the power of video. That was my first career, in various newsrooms, starting with CNN as it was being born.Today’s cameras and software can help you save your family story.
When Moss was 25, she visited a hundred-year old man who shared his vivid memories. Later she found out that his father was captured in the Battle of Shy’s Hill in Nashville. Those stories, along with those of “4000 other relatives,” she thought with chagrin, “were gone.” An attorney who founded Elder Law of Nashville PLC, Moss is now 64 and fully aware of the passing of time. Today her passionate hobby is capturing family history by recording her family’s older members.
Moss and her husband bought a high-definition video camera five years ago to take “home movies” of their first grandchild. Christmas was coming, and gift-giving was also on Moss’s mind. “I wanted to give my siblings something I would want, not something useless,” she remembers, “and I hit on the idea of making and giving videos of our older relatives.” The first videos were of her father and uncle. She simply seated them in a chair, stationed the camera on a tripod so it wouldn’t shake, and began to ask questions. Moss found easy questions online and created her own. Her previous experience as a litigator was helpful, but she declares, “Anyone can do this!”
Do-It-Yourself Family History DVD Tips from Barbara Moss
- Find a quiet place where the light is bright and consistent.
- Prepare your questions and ask them in chronological order, starting with childhood.
- Don’t ask about the children unless you are prepared to edit to give each child equal time.
- Learn editing software on a computer with lots of memory and with personal help.
The hobbyist went to great lengths, buying an Apple computer and getting lessons at the store on moviemaking with the computer’s software. Soon her presents were ready. She sent the first ones to her dad and uncle but also to many others on both sides of her family. She records several family elders each year, with each elder the star of an hour-long DVD. “They are thrilled to get them and to get enough copies to hand to their kids,” she says. By now Moss has three grandchildren and another on the way.
When Moss interviewed her cousin she heard a new, important story about her own mother: “An aunt that passed away was divorced during WWII. She raised her kids and supported her teenage sister and her mother, a widow, (my mother and grandmother) by working in the munitions factory. She volunteered to be team leader and carry the munitions from line to line, a very dangerous job. If she had dropped it, she would have blown up.”
These simple heritage DVDs show people, and are not embellished with old photos or music. “My movies have no production values, but they do preserve the stories,” she says.
I’ll be posting professional video tips from personal historians soon.
Deborah Wilbrink is a personal historian, assisting others to write or publish their life stories, family and business histories. For information about her services see www.perfectmemoirs.com or call 615-417-8424.of Tennessee, July 2015