With Christmas coming up, you may feel the desire to give the gift of family history research. But how can you compete with the shiny toys and brand new things that Santa will undoubtedly bring to your family? Here are a few fun ways that you can share your genealogy with those you love around the holidays:
- Give the gift of research. If one of your loved ones shows an interest in doing some family history research for him or herself, you can gift them a subscription to a family history database such as Ancestry.com. If you know that they will be doing a lot of research in England and Wales, findmypast.com would be a wonderful gift. From that website, they can access England’s census records and thousands of other records, including parish registers. Of course, Legacy Tree Genealogists also completes many amazing family history Christmas gifts each year. Information on our projects can be found at https://www.legacytree.com/ready-discover-story.
- Tell them stories. Or, better yet, compile a book of stories about your shared ancestors. There are many companies that will help you self-publish a book. If your relative is computer-savvy, you could type up the stories in a Microsoft Word document and give it to them on a flash drive for Christmas. Stories about ancestors can help us get to know their personalities, as well as fill in the gaps that documentation leaves about their lives. It’s always fun to learn about ones grandparent as a child, or to hear about an ancestor that came to America and created their own version of the American dream. Stories about courtship and marriage are also cherished treasures, and giving the gift of family stories can ignite an interest in genealogy within your own immediate family.
- Create a photo album. If you are lucky enough to have a collection of old family photographs, you can use websites like Shutterfly.com to create your own, personalized, photo album. You can customize the layout of the photographs and their captions, and the company will print it out and send it to you in a hardcover, high-quality book. Make sure that you label each photograph with the date it was taken and the names of the people in it. You could also include fun stories about the people in the photos. If your relatives are not well-aware of the people in their family tree, it may be helpful to include a copy of their pedigree chart with the album so that they can figure out where the people in the album fit into their own genealogy. Not only would such a gift increase a family’s knowledge of their heritage, but it would also preserve those fragile photos digitally for subsequent generations.
- Share family traditions. Even though you may not have known a lot of the people in your family history personally, you probably know at least a few things about them, including their country/culture of origin. It can be fun to research the customs of their homeland and incorporate them into your own Christmas traditions. For example, if you know that your great-grandmother came to America from Poland in 1906, you may want to find out if there are Christmas traditions that are unique to Poland, such as the oplatek. An oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water that is reminiscent of the wafers used during a Roman Catholic Mass. In Poland, they are embossed with a scene from the nativity and shared during the Christmas Eve meal. Each family member breaks off a piece of the oplatek and says a prayer for a loved one. If you are of Polish descent, the oplatek could be a sweet way to remember your ancestors around the holidays.
Family history research is an experience that can bring families together, which is something that Christmas does beautifully. If you are looking for meaningful gift ideas this holiday season, you may just find that your inspiration lies in your own family’s past.