One hundred and eight years ago, the first member of my grandmother's family came to America, thanks to the sponsorship of another family that preceded ours. Though they were always considered family to the generations that followed, the true nature of the association - how we were related - was lost in the past. Recent DNA testing finally proved that we were, indeed, cousins - a relationship that likely originated in 19th century Russia. We recently had a reunion with members of that family - individuals whom we'd never met, but whose families had a pivotal role in our own history.
The search to find that distant common ground - one of the key attractions to exploring one's genealogy - takes on new meaning in the age of online video.
When I started my "Vlogger Interview" project on YouTube, my intention was to seek out a better understanding of this powerful and rapidly changing means of expression. As I talk to more and more vloggers, I've realized that preserving our collective history is an important part of the process.
Vlogger Andy Gunton (Andymooseman on YouTube) has recorded over 700 vlogs over the past several years on a wide variety of topics ranging from history to politics to music. He made an important point in his vlogger interview that in creating those videos, he's also creating a legacy - a time capsule of sorts - of who he is, what he believes - essentially, a gift to his descendants.
We're recording and preserving our personal history as never before. As time moves on, and our era is consigned to the (digital) history books, future historians and genealogists will have direct access to, as Richard Reyonlds (BusterSenshi, another interview subject) puts it, the Zeitgeist of modern society. In an upcoming interview, ErikTV365 is driven to post a vlog every day of his life - sharing his family's daily adventures - and expressing an appreciation of his own life as a cancer survivor - preserving his family history, but also, his very nature. By simply pursing his hobbies and interests through his social media channels, teen vlogger Harrison Houde (xTurnipTimex - here's his interview) will one day be able to recall aspects of his own coming of age more directly than any previous generation.
Traces of family members from generations past won't disappear as thoughts, ideas, friendships, conflicts and opinions will preserve part of their essence. We'll have the opportunity (or curse?) to learn more about ourselves from our ancestors - or even our younger selves.
What will your distant descendants perceive of you from your social media - your Facebook posts, your tweets, your vlogs, your photos - and your YouTube videos - and of the media you post publicly on a regular basis?
Is it you?