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

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."