July 2


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

About the author

Cory Bretz is a filmmaker and personal historian. He specializes in interviewing elders and helping families inspire their next generation with their life stories, family history, wisdom, blessings, and old photos. He can help you create your own life story family history film or storybook. Cory also loves producing fundraising and profile videos for non-profits and conscious corporations that help them do their good works.


ancestry, family history, genealogy

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