D. Joshua Taylor, Co-host of Genealogy Roadshow on the PBS network and President of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B), took a few moments from his busy schedule at RootsTech 2016 to chat with me about the future of genealogy and how video plays a role. I reduced our conversation to the concentrated interview excerpts below for quick reading. Click here for more extended excerpts and a link to the full audio recording of the interview, complete with the energy-filled hubbub from the Expo Hall at RootsTech 2016.
The Ancestor Elevator Speech: Genealogists Face The Challenge Of Telling The Story, Not Just Reporting The Facts
“We encounter this all the time on Genealogy Roadshow, where we have 50 documents to share, but in reality, we have to whittle it down to a six-minute segment.” Josh went on to note: “So in many cases, it’s how do you tell a story and use the documents as illustration versus simply giving them a research report? I see other genealogists when sharing stories with their family members; it’s very easy for it to turn into a very long-winded research report…It’s shortening that [to a] 30-second tagline about an ancestor. What’s the tagline in that case?”
“…one of the challenges for genealogists is … to create those elevator speeches of their ancestors … We want to tell so much more about the story and everything we’re finding, but when you’re sharing the story, it has to be that, in that shorter time.”
Josh’s Circus Performer Ancestor
“…he’s actually a first cousin 3 times removed, but he was a circus performer in the 1850’s and 1860’s. He traveled all around the world. He was born in Missouri. He died in Bombay, India. He lived in Australia. He went to China. He went to England … he traveled the entire globe. When I think about him and his family, all of his children but one died very, very, young. I think about the struggles he had. He had a desire to express his creativity as an artist. He was able to travel all around the world–that absolutely inspires me.”
“I have photographs of him. In my office at home, I have a Playbill from a theater in Boston. He was performing there. I found it in an archive somewhere and then found another copy of it at an antique store so I was able to get that. I have visual representation in my pictures of him performing with horses. I have all the ads from the newspapers when he was in town. I have a lot about his story. I want to write a book one day. Even more, I want to write a video and produce the video about his life. He’s an incredible guy.”
“I’d much rather talk about my circus performer on video with images I could show [rather than] than lay out documents. It doesn’t actually capture his great story. It’s in the images, and in seeing that visual movement from place to place.”
Online Video Will Play More of A Role, In Sharing And In Research
“In the future, I think it’s very possible that we will tap into a video experience, even if it’s only interactive video when we’re working with the librarian or an archivist somewhere when we’re actually doing the research… What would it be like if you could sit here and tap into a librarian of the New York Public Library, and have a reference conversation and record that and have that for future generations?”
Parting Words Of Encouragement On Using Video In Genealogy
“I would only add that [you should] start, start. I use video now to keep my research log. When I come back from the library, I … record on my camera, on my laptop, and I talk about everything I looked at. Then, I preserve at least that thought that was in the moment. I can share that with somebody and say, ‘… I went to the library and here’s what I found.’”
Thanks again to D. Joshua Taylor for taking time out to share his insights with the Video Genealogy community. You can learn more about D. Joshua Taylor on his website at www.djoshuataylor.com.
Got a great ancestor story you want to bring to life in video? Get started now by downloading FREE Ancestor Story Tools here.
Margaret Eves. RootsTech 2016 Expo Hall. Collection of Margaret Eves.
General Research Division, The New York Public Library. “$1.00 Yale Stem Winding Stem Setting p. 5 (detail)” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 14, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/aac6d860-a576-0132-5037-58d385a7bbd0
George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. “Sensation cut plug [Horses jumping in circus?]” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 14, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-d9a5-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99