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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”