Genealogy Archives - Heirloom Films and Storybooks

Category Archives for "Genealogy"

Number Two: Stories

“Once upon a time there was … “ Life story family history films and books are basically just stories combined with images. Having genealogical information like dates of birth and dates of death and places is nice, perhaps even important but the main ingredient of any interesting and inspiring family keepsake is stories. Each of the characters in your book or film has a story and it's based on the challenges and triumphs of their life. They grew up somewhere and perhaps moved somewhere else. There were certain things going on in their town or city. Their lives and choices were influenced by world events. They had interactions, partnerships, conflicts and love affairs with other people. And everybody has accomplishments, big and small. Stories don't have to be earth-shattering or epic, but there does need to be a story.

The nice thing in storytelling about people who have passed on already like your ancestors is that there's very few people around who can dispute the stories that you tell about them. So the invitation is to gather what you can about each person and then make some assumptions, draw some conclusions, maybe even give yourself a little artistic license to add a touch of fiction to round out the story. You see this all the time: “Based on a true story”. The point is to honour and celebrate that ancestor. A good story is a great way to do it.

When I was growing up, my uncle told me many amazing, inspiring big fish stories. As I look back (and after doing some some research) I would say about a third of those stories were actually true and the other two-thirds were brilliant make-believe! As a kid I loved those tales and learned lots about life. Allow yourself to nurture your family’s kids with nourishing, entertaining stories.

To help you with your storytelling we created the Life Story Questionnaire. Just by filling out this document for each of your characters you’ll be able to hone in on things like schools, careers, military service, places, historical events, achievements, and relationships so that you can surmise their story. It’s not a difficult process. And you’ll be surprised about how much you actually know about your ancestors.

Stories have a typical formula. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. The most versatile storytelling metaphor is “The Hero’s Journey”. You can use it to sequence the happenings of an ancestor’s life into a compelling and meaningful adventure that makes your readers and viewers look forward to the next bit of the story and they’ll think you’re a master writer. Writing and editing is easy for some and more difficult for others. If you get stuck personal historian Cory Bretz can help you with this creative process so it becomes fun and rewarding. Or he can ghost-write it for you so you can take the credit without any of the frustrations!

To get started, download the Life Story Questionnaire for free. You can also schedule a free Family History Consult on Zoom with personal historian Cory Bretz to strategize your best storytelling approach.

Read Number Three: Interviews [COMING SOON]

In the meantime, check out some samples of life story family history films and books to get some ideas for your project. 

Number One: Characters & Genealogy

Number One: Characters & Genealogy

You already know that you are getting involved in a family history project that is both very inspiring and valuable to your descendants. You can see the smiling faces of your future great grandchildren reading your book or watching your film. And you’re also probably figuring out that this labour of love requires an investment of your time, money, and perhaps your creativity too. You can definitely do it yourself but you’ll increase your chances of success if you get some help. Personal historian Cory Bretz talks about the Five Things For Getting Started that will need your attention, time, energy, and decision-making ability. 

Number One: Characters & Genealogy

All films and books are finite — you can only cram in so many people’s stories. Decide who the main characters are going to be in your life story family history film or book. Yup, pick out which relatives are going to be the stars. Be certain to include yourself and perhaps your spouse(s). Make a list of your parents, step parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, maybe even your children and grandchildren who you think need to be reflected in your film or book. Having that list of names helps you focus in on what information and imagery will be needed to put this project together. Understanding the breadth of characters and the stories that they represent determines the amount of time, effort and very likely the money that you'll need to make available to create this amazing family keepsake … and to do justice in honouring those ancestors.

To help you with this step we developed the Family Tree Chart that makes it simple to map out who your relatives are so you can start making casting decisions. This is also the time to go crazy with DNA and genealogy because you will be needing the basics about your characters. WARNING: Genealogy can be highly addictive and will definitely prevent you from getting to the next next steps if you get stuck there. Resist the temptation to add another 100 ancestors to your tree. While that might be fun and even valuable, those ancestors won’t be featured in your film or book and you could be wasting precious time for the next crucial step.

Building a basic family tree is a useful step because it can be reflected as an illustrative graphic in your life story family history film or book to explain how your weird uncle is actually related.

At Heirloom Films and Storybooks we can help you coach you on genealogy, research it for you, and we’ll put together that family tree. You can schedule a free Family History Consult on Zoom.

Download our free Family Tree Chart  to get started casting your characters.

Click to read Number Two: Stories

Five Things To Get Ready

Five Things To Get Ready

So you think you're ready to make your life story family history film or book, right? Maybe you’ve already started or you’re stuck somewhere in the process. Or maybe you just lay awake at night thinking about it! You just want to get it done! Let's talk about what's involved in being ready to move forward.

You already know that you are getting involved in a project that is both very inspiring and valuable to your descendants. You can see the smiling faces of your future great grandchildren reading your book or watching your film. And you’re also probably figuring out that this labour of love requires an investment of your time, money, and perhaps your creativity too. You can definitely do it yourself but you’ll increase your chances of success if you get some help. Personal historian Cory Bretz talks about the Five Things For Getting Started that will need your attention, time, energy, and decision-making ability.

Why does all this matter? If you don’t get done your life story family history film or book your descendants are very likely to have absolutely no comprehension of who your parents really were. They certainly will not understand anything about your grandparents. Your grandkids and future great grandchildren won’t see any inspiring examples of related family members who lived meaningful lives, with beauty, genius, determination, and vision. All of that will vanish in an instant if you don't get done your book or film. Sorry to be melodramatic but it’s true.

On the plus side, getting done your project and being able to give the next generation a beautiful and educational life story family history film or book will make them proud to be members of your family. You’ll be inspiring them to greater things, giving them values and concepts that embolden them, encourage them, and help them through tough times...forever. You’ll be helping the next generation understand that they come from a long line of amazing people. Just imagine how good it’s going to feel to be part of creating that positive legacy in this world.

Being efficient and effective is the name of the game in getting done your life story family history film or book.

Here's five things that you’ve got to look at as you get started. You don’t have to do them alone but you or somebody else has to do them. Maybe your kids or your siblings will come up with something...or not. But these five things have to be done to inspire the next generation. And who’s the perfect person to do it? The perspective that they need to survive and thrive in the future? Yours. You can do it. And our personal historian Cory Bretz can help.

Here goes. Click to Read Number One: Characters & Genealogy

Also, check out some samples of life story family history films and books to get some ideas for your project. 

Beyond Image Scanning Services

Stories are what make digital photos interesting.

Digital Is Good, But A Warning To The Wise

Kudos to you for investing your money and your time into having your collection of old photos digitized! Having those irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind images stored on a memory stick or portable hard drive along with your old 8mm films, slides, and camcorder videos is the right thing to do….technically speaking.

Because you’re absolutely right that leaving all that family history media in the attic or closet or wherever it’s hiding in it’s original paper or analog format is risking it will be lost, destroyed, or forgotten. Some day some future family member will be thanking you for being so diligent in converting all those old photos, films, slides and old newspaper articles to digital images and video files. Making those things digital means they can be easily stored, copied, and shared with your family members. 

But a warning for the wise…even though converting old photos  and films to digital media is an advantage for many reasons, it doesn’t solve the oldest problem we humans continue to have: passing on our family stories. 

Who Are Those People?

The fact is that whether your descendants inherit a box of musty old paper paper print photographs or a slick modern memory stick loaded with thousands of sequentially numbered high resolution digital images, without some identification and relevant storytelling, those images will be quite meaningless. It’s so sad to stare at a beautiful restored old photo with all it’s antique charms to not know the names of those people, nor anything about their lives or the context of the photos. You don’t want your descendants to inherit digital photos of strangers, do you?

How To Pass On The Stories Along With Those Digital Photos and Films

With modern technology we now have so many awesome tools available to connect those digital images with your story so they will be educational, cherished, and inspiring! The internet has made it possible to put your rare family history photos, slides, and films in a place where you can easily share them. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram offer fabulous ways to showcase ancestors with photos, videos, and text story. Ancestry and other genealogy websites provide often free locations to build your family tree and upload your photo and films, along with story text. 

Video Is One of The Most Consumed Media Types

Video is now one of the most consumed media types on the internet and your great grandkids will be looking for the video about their family history. Those old photos, slides, and films are the perfect fodder to assemble an interesting and inspiring video for them to watch 24/7 anywhere in the world. Videos are easy to make using verbal recollections, video interviews, even remote video interviews on platforms like Zoom and Skype. Life story family history films are the perfect vehicle to contain life stories, family history, genealogical data like family trees, profiles of ancestors, old photo collections, 8mm, Super8, and 16mm films, and important things like values, philosophies, religious beliefs, life wisdom, and personal messages and blessings.  Future generations will be searching Google looking for videos about your family, their ancestors. 

Storybooks: Old Technology Still Works Best For Bedtime Stories

Print storybooks offer a simple and non-screen way (no batteries required) to do bedtime stories with little kids, infusing them with family identity, your family’s values, and celebrating their amazing ancestors. The best storybooks are designed so you don’t have to read the whole book in one sitting and sweet, educational conversations are started with the kids. 

Do Something With Your Old Photos, Slide, and 8mm Films!

So while at Heirloom Films and Storybooks we’re happy to digitize your old photo collection for you, for the sake of the next generation of your family we’d love to help you do something with those images and videos so they can in fact be inspiring.  Ask about our life story family history films, print storybooks,  online galleries, family history websites, interactive family trees, and photo collection organization services. 

December 30, 2015

Genealogical Research Services

Genealogy Services Heirloom Films

Heirloom Films and Storybooks and Personal Historian Cory Bretz are pleased to announce that we now offer Genealogical Research Services and the design and printing of family trees. Researching online records about your ancestors and family has become a source of great information. It’s not uncommon to discover other family members or recover the names of relatives that have been forgotten.

At Heirloom Films and Storybooks we create online family trees that can be shared with all your family members and later printed and mounted to become cherished family heirlooms. Photos and stories can be included in these beautiful family trees.

Family trees can also be part of print bound family history books and family history films too.

Get a free trial account at

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