The Secret To Being On A Genealogy TV Show

You’ve probably watched the TV shows — Who Do You Think You Are?, Genealogy Road Show or Finding Your Roots. You may have thought “They should make a video about my ancestors. They have such amazing stories.” Or perhaps you’ve encouraged family members to watch the shows and they’ve gotten excited their family history. Of course, we’d all love to have the teams of genealogists behind these programs do the research for us!

I love watching the shows. I find the stories of people’s ancestors to be fascinating. But, I wanted to share some equally amazing stories about my own ancestors. So, I decided to make my own genealogy TV show.

I sat down and brainstormed some ideas, wrote them down quickly, and decided to tell the Civil War story of my great-great grandfather, W. Hunter Davis. I had digitized his photograph and had digital images of his military records. I knew if I wanted to actually complete the video it would need to be short. That would help encourage people to watch it as well. I wrote out a narrative, trying to voice it as if I was telling the story to someone while I was showing the pictures.

I looked at the tools I had: my laptop computer with a built-in microphone and iMovie. I could've also used PowerPoint or Keynote. I recorded my narrative onto the computer in iMovie, then added in the digitized images. I added a music track (iMovie provides stock music, but I found a public domain recording of Civil War era music that worked well). I searched in a few online collections for public domain images that were relevant to the story and added those in with the others. I wanted to show the sources for the images and information so I added some titles and credits with the title feature that comes with iMovie. That was it. I made my own Genealogy TV show! Click on the image to see the results.

So, maybe there wasn’t a big cable network wanting to show it, but I did post it on YouTube and sent the link to family and friends so they could watch it. I had so much fun with the W. Hunter Davis story, I decided to make another video about my other great-great grandpa, Benjamin Armstrong. Again, I kept the story short so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. This time I tried Keynote which allowed me to use some simple animation. Click the video image below to see it.

We can always hope, but more than likely we won’t be chosen for Genealogy Road Show and, unless we’re a major celebrity, no TV producers will be flying us across the pond to walk through our ancestral village. But do not despair, you could still see your ancestor’s story on-screen by making the video yourself or with a crew of family members. It may take a bit of effort, but think of it — as genealogists we do plenty just to dig up a death certificate. We’d walk miles in the snow going up hill both ways to discover a photo of great-grandma!

Show Your Ancestor’s World With Video

So, putting together a video story about our beloved ancestor will seem simple in comparison, given today’s digital technology. Piece of cake — well, maybe more like baking a cake from scratch, but the results are worth it. explores the rewarding experience of creating and showing your ancestor’s stories with video. Start with the story. You can get help by downloading free Ancestor Story Brainstorm Tools here.


Originally published at on March 21, 2016.

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