The why of the family history project

album006My grandfather passed away in 1996. He was a huge influence in my life and still is. One of the things that he left me (a coin collection and film) was film. Starting in 1946 and stretching into the 1970’s my grandfather took 16-millimeter film of family events. I have kept those films for many years, thinking that I would convert them someday, but as is often the case someday never comes.

Except it did. memories appealed not to my guilt but to my dream. To convert those old films into something I could share. Part of the family history project is facing the artifacts of the past and pulling them forward. To leave my children with hard drives that contain all of our family’s artifacts. I took the plunge and converted the film.

I have the first DVD and I’ve watched it. Some of the film is in poor condition, but what would you expect from film that is at best 40 years old? Some of the images on the films are haunting. Images of people that are no longer with us, but walking around on the TV screen as they had once. As if scientists found a DVD of dinosaurs. Look at the Brachiopods, frolicking there having a picnic in the swamp.

Hours of video to watch of things that were. Seeing my father without a beard or gray hair was a stop, pause and look again moment. Seeing my grandfather in the few images where he was captured on the film, amazing. memories did a good job. I will, once I get through the rest of the video’s post some on our YouTube channel.

That got me thinking about the things that are left in our family history project. We started with the passing of my father more than 2 years ago, now. He left, like my grandfather before him, images of the past to me. 30,000 slides that we converted into digital images. Or in the case of my grandfather 32 film cases with 1000 or so feet of film to be digitized. Thousands of images of what was.

Albums003Pictures of Thailand from 1972. Pictures of my grandparents’ house on Lake Ripley in Wisconsin. Pictures of my Uncle practicing his golf swing, or pictures of many different people water skiing. Moving pictures of time now long past. I can close my eyes and see those moments. They are still vivid in my memory but now even more so, even more vivid.

My grandfather was a technologist I realize now. He was taking color moving pictures in 1946. Well in 1946 they were black and white images. But he switched to color film very early on. My childhood memories were often captured in technicolor. I watched some the other day, remembering the moments and remembering the times.

I have generated more than 1000 blogs now in the Family history project. Memories, images and thoughts from what was. Pictures of my kids when they were little. Pictures of my nieces and nephews when they wouldn’t have anything to do with me (I was the scary uncle). Pictures of my mom and dad before gray hair (which according to my mom coincided with my being able to walk). Images of the boat that used to run around the lake to get me to sleep at nap time.

Albums041We, by we I mean I in the best sense of we as France, started the family history project because storing boxes with 30,000 slides was a lot of space. Many of the images never seen, never shared. Shared now with the world, but for a long time simply lovingly put into trays and then shared with two or three people and put away forever.

I can’t imagine leaving my kids 30,000 slides. The reality, the agony of all those images you can’t really watch because slide projectors are hard to find, and repair. Pictures that sat in albums for years and no one looked at them.

The family history project was designed to share the images of the past with the presents. But to also leave something for the future to find.

The images on my blog today, courtesy of Dr. Hans O Andersen. (Copyright Dr. Hans O Andersen)

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