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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."