As we get older, many of us desire to preserve our memories and family history for future generations. Online resources like Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com have made it easier than ever to create virtual family trees bursting with photos, personal anecdotes, and family lore that can be easily shared and passed on.
Yet, there is something satisfying in having a physical manifestation of one’s family history, something tactile that can be created and enjoyed generation to generation. Creative ways to display family trees include quilts, collages, and scrapbooks.
As many of us are spending more time at home, there’s never been a better time to roll up your sleeves and start learning more about your family’s roots.
Where to Start Researching Family History
It’s time to start researching and recording your family history… but where do you start? Here’s a list of excellent resources that you can tap into - without leaving home!
- Memories. Did you ever keep a diary? Do you have loved ones who’ve passed away and left written records? Write down your own memories of your family history, and reach out to relatives for any records they may have from your relations. You may be surprised at what you turn up!
- Anecdotes. Every family has stories that they pass down generation to generation. Save these anecdotes, either via a digital recording or written down in a journal with your memories. If you discover that the family shares similar stories, like lost relations, places lived, or famous connections, it may be worth researching these stories to see if you can find supporting evidence.
- Interviews. If possible, reach out to your siblings or parents, and interview them over the phone about what they know regarding your family history. Make recordings and take notes that you can work from later.
- Online archives. Public archives like the Digital Public Library of America are easily searchable from just about anywhere. Browse thousands of scanned documents to uncover a wealth of family history information. You may be able to trace some of your ancestors via these records.
- DNA search. Websites like 23&me and AncestryDNA will send you a DNA test kit that you can perform at home. Pop it off into the mail and get your results added to their database, and you could find familial connections with other users who have added their DNA information here. Just be aware that if you choose to share this information, these connections can be seen by third parties.
Create a Visual Keepsake
When you have completed your research, you may find that online tools are useful for visualizing all of the connections among your family members. However, if you want to create a more tactile family tree, here are some ideas:
- Photo Family Tree. Create a photo family tree on a large piece of poster board, with photos or drawings of your oldest ancestors at the top. Label each photo. Use creative ways to visually connect family members and their stories using colored paper, stencils, or other paper crafting items. Pinterest is a great place to search for ideas.
- Family Tree Quilt. If you enjoy quilting, a family tree quilt is a unique and beautiful way to keep a record of your family’s past. Depending on the complexity of your family tree, one quilt square could be dedicated to a single ancestor or a family group.
- Family Tree Book. Many families today choose to keep their family tree inside of a book. This tradition can be traced back to the recording of births and marriages. You can either order a blank book to create your own family tree and memory collage, or you can use a blank family tree book with a template that makes recording this information easier.
These visual keepsakes are excellent conversation pieces, and can be passed down generation after generation.
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