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Harvesting the family tree for awesome gifts

Video documentarian

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Personal history documentaries

Hearing Grandpa tell his stories of growing up in the Great Depression? Priceless. Professional documentaries capture memories for future generations through interviews, photographs and memorabilia.

"The whole concept is to honor them, and say, your life is worth documenting," said Jamie Yuenger, owner of (pictured, conducting an interview). There's an advantage to having someone outside the family do the interviews: "I can get away with asking questions that family members can't or don't ask, said Life Stories Alive founder Mike O'Krent. "The most common thing I hear afterward is, 'I've known this person all my life, and I've never heard that story.'"

Documentaries can have the longest gift turnaround from contract to having the final DVDs in hand, as several months are needed for research, on-camera interviews and editing. They can also be the most expensive: Prices start at $8,000, depending on travel required and the depth of coverage a family is looking for, said Yuenger.

David Anderson