OK, we made a decision on the camcorder and it's on order.
We chose the Panasonic PVGS35 because it had an external microphone input.
No accessory shoe, but we have a roll of duct tape.
You can spend weeks researching these things and find pros and cons for all of them.
Son Michael said to just pick one to learn on. When we decide we want something more or something else, sell this one and move on.
UPDATE: We didn't have a working camera when I was growing up, and it would have made no difference since we couldn't afford film or processing.
We did have an old broken box Brownie that I used to play with.
This will be my first camera with much in the way of manual controls. Hmmm.