Toolkit: Family History with Grandma Char

In this second project I’m reading a letter written on the same day, January 7, 1968, by my maternal grandmother, Grandma Char. She and Grandpa Bob lived on a half-city block in Colton, California. They had an orchard of fruit and nut trees, including oranges, grapefruit, Santa Rosa plums, a wormy apple tree (that made fantastic pies), apricots, peaches, nectarines, persimmons, pecans and walnuts. Grandma was 65 and a retired math teacher, and Grandpa was 70 and a retired history teacher and principal. He was in the last stages of Parkinson’s disease, and the family had suffered to see a man of such integrity and character decline in health over a long period of time.

They both attended Great Grandma Georgenie’s 104th birthday party in Hemet. Grandma Char lists the guests, describes the two cakes (one white from the convalescent hospital, and one chocolate made by Grandma Nina), and mentions the photographer from the newspaper.

Other topics include Aunt Rachel (one of her sisters) and Uncle Glen heading for Paris for an extended stay; the plan for Aunt Blessing (another sister) to join them for a month;  and a bargain that had been struck for Rachel to return in June to attend the college graduation and wedding of Suzie (one of their daughters). On a recent weekend visit, Grandma Char and her niece, Kay, had spotted a wild parrot in Colton, presumably the same one I had spotted on a family visit to Colton the previous summer (apparently multiple communities of expat parrots live in Northern and Southern California). She also mentions the mystery story I was writing at the time (“The Mystery of the Sapphire Ring”), and the collection of dolls that my friend, Theresa, and I played with (we loved to act out spy and adventure stories).

In this video I tried to treat Grandma Char’s letter in parallel with the letter from Grandma Nina where I could, using comparable or even the same images. But many topics are unique to the writer. This made me think about the best approach for writing about family history. Is it better to use the structure of a letter (filled with the beauty of the everyday), or is it better to focus on a single topic like the birthday party (and provide a story line, excerpts of letters with multiple points of view, and maybe add pertinent history). I also thought about the role of privacy and confidentiality. These letters are over 50 years old, and the writers and events are long past, but their descendents still live. Is there a statute of limitations for sharing family history? All things worth considering!

Toolkit: Family History with Grandma Nina

Some time ago I hit on the idea of turning my “movie making” interest to some family history projects. I have a collection of letters from my two grandmothers – Grandma Char from Belle Fourche, South Dakota (born 1903) and Grandma Nina from Haviland, Kansas (born 1894). Both moved to Southern California with their families in the early 20th century.

In this first project I’m reading a letter from my paternal grandmother, Nina, written January 7, 1968. Grandma Nina was 74 and I was 12. I lived with my family in Juneau,  Alaska. Grandma Nina and Grandpa Lionel lived in a mobile home park in Hemet, California, set in the beautiful Hemet Valley. It was still rural and agrarian, and provided an affordable retirement option. They loved the climate and the community. In this letter, Grandma Nina tells about her mother’s 104th birthday celebration.

A photographer from the Hemet News came to take a picture of Georgenie Augusta Sedgwick at the Meadowbrook Convalescent Hospital. Guests included my maternal grandparents, Grandma Char and Grandpa Bob from Colton; my Aunt Ruth Sedgwick (Claude’s wife) and her sister from Corona; a family friend, Vera; a neighbor from the mobile home park, Edna; and nurse, Mrs. Wanda Easley. My paternal grandfather stayed home in case Aunt Babe called needing a ride (turns out she did not attend). The nursing home provided a cake with white frosting, but Grandma Nina brought a chocolate cake that she had made with her new Sunbeam mixer. (Apparently I am genetically predisposed to like chocolate cake)!

To enliven the narration, I added visual components including photographs, maps, and newspaper clippings. Plus, Grandma Nina had included two photographs with the letter that show the mobile home park blanketed with snow (a very unusual occurrence). I was surprised how much family history was included in the letter, and how many artifacts I was able to gather. I’m inspired by the wonderful storytelling of Ken Burns, and challenged to take his ideas to the small screen to capture the beauty and pathos of ordinary family history!

Toolkit: More Fun with Movavi

Over the past several months I’ve made several tutorials and “travelogues”, using the Movavi Video Editor. I’m using an older edition (version 12.x), and trying to master its features before I upgrade to the latest version (and there are a lot of untapped features to try). With this post, I continue with the project to document a recent trip to Southern California, Palm Springs, and the desert.

In this video, I again combined a series of still shots and short video clips, but this time added an audio track called “Lazy River Rag” by Dan Lebowitz from YouTube’s Royalty-free Music library). I used one of Movavi’s animations to transition to each of the lake destinations. Notice there are no gravel sounds in the 360 degree video shot overlooking Diamond Lake and the surrounding environment! The pan shot in the “Skinner Lake Day Use 2” also worked out really well. In past attempts to use the feature, there has simply not been enough photo to make it work. This time I used a shot taken using the “Panorama” setting on my Android camera, and it worked!

I still need to work on timing. Sometimes the still shots seem to go on forever, and the transitions may take longer than needed. I also need to experiment with the volume. I have a little hearing loss in certain ranges, so it’s hard to judge if the volume is set at a comfortable level. I’ll need to research whether there is good mid-level volume that is recommended (in the meantime, viewers are welcome to adjust to their personal tastes)! It’s satisfying and fun to try out new things and gain new skills. With every project, new possibilities emerge!