News / Arts & Entertainment

Personal Historians Document Family Memories

Personal Historians Document Family Memoriesi
X
February 21, 2014 4:16 PM
Many Americans preserve their family’s history in home movies or a scrapbook. People interested in documenting their family memories, but who are too busy or don't know how to do it themselves, can hire a professional to do it for them. Those professionals are known as personal historians. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
Faiza Elmasry
Documenting a family's history, whether through images, home movies or shared memories, is usually a very personal endeavor.

However, for people interested in documenting their family memories, but who are too busy or unable to do it themselves, there are professionals, known as personal historians, who get the job done.

Pilot James Lanning, 84, has flown across six continents and logged nearly 34,000 hours in the air. His son, Jim Lanning, says his father passed along his love of aviation to his four kids, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Lanning says his daughter, Elizabeth, was fascinated by the stories her grandfather shared with her in the cockpit.

“She would always come home excited about hearing a new story of a trip that he flew, delivering a plane to Africa, to a mission field, to somewhere in Brazil, or had a problem with the plane, just some of the stories I grew up as a boy experiencing and seeing and listening to, him coming home from a trip and telling us a story,” he said.

That’s when the idea of preserving his father’s stories was born.

“As the new generations come on and our children start having children, I just thought it would be a wonderful idea to have memorialized some of the stories, and some of the experiences coming from Dad first-hand.”

Since everyone in the family was too busy to do it themselves, they hired Ronda Barrett, a personal historian, to document the family history on film.

“He’s trying to relate tales from what he experienced and in some cases give them information that may save their lives some day in terms of being a pilot,” Barrett said.

However, the elder Lanning was not entirely at ease while participating in the project.

"Their grandfather is very comfortable sharing those stories in the context of being in the cockpit or being in the hangar or working on a plane, and the stories are free flowing. He’s not as comfortable sitting down and being interviewed about that. So more of the exercise in this project has been getting him to a comfort level to sit in what wasn’t as natural of a setting for him and getting those stories to flow.”
 
Barrett is a filmmaker, who left a career in marketing to make movies about families. She’s one of more than 700 members of the Association of Personal Historians, a national organization for professionals in the field.

She says films are not the only form of preserving family history. Some people create a family cookbook, pairing recollections with recipes handed down from generation to generation. Others prefer to tell family stories by creating a quilt or collecting photos, letters and cards in a book.

“Those sweet little things give you a flavor of those conversations that must have been had between those family members,” she said.

Barrett also does consultations for people who want to document their family's history themselves.

“If you have a pencil and a piece of paper, you can write your stories," she said. "Nowadays, everyone has a camera, a video camera on their cell phones, so there is an opportunity for everyone to capture something in some way. So when people come to me, typically their questions have to do with how overwhelmed they feel about even starting it. If you start with the idea of capturing someone’s entire life, it is overwhelming. It’s a difficult place to start from on your own.”

Breaking the project into manageable pieces, she advises, can be a starting point. Sort out family photos or interview an older family member
 
Whether people do it on their own or hire a personal historian, the project can prompt inter-generational conversations, and family pride.

“I think this will provide a lot of the historical perspective," Lanning said, "and I frankly plan on showing it once it’s completed not just for family, but to the flying family, the flying community.”

Personal historians are not only documenting family stories before they are lost, they are also preserving a bit of history.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.