Genealogy/Family History Project Ideas
I sadly do not have any journals, personal histories or anything about any of my ancestors. I would give anything if I did. I would love to know something about them, their lives, the kind of person they were, what they liked and didn't like....anything at all. It would be a cherished possession. Many of us perhaps are in this position...yearning to have something that would connect us to our ancestors in a more emotional sense or tie. LEARNING FROM THIS GRIEF, I have vowed that MY descendents will not have cause to feel this way about me. I have pondered and pondered about how and what I can do to make sure that I am not forgotten or unknown to my family in the decades to come. I would like to share with you a LIST OF IDEAS for some fun projects that could be done and LEFT FOR OUR FAMILIES. I can't do anything about not having histories of my ancestors...But I CAN do something today about making sure my posterity knows something about ME. We can all leave a legacy..."a gift of ourself"...to our family!
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Write Your Personal History
We all have a life and we are all living it. Some of us have more interesting lives than others, it is true, but we each still have our very own story to tell...our very personally unique story.
If you strive to look at this project as something fun and at the same time very valuable, you will get through it and the end result will amaze you and I promise you that you will FEEL VERY GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF for having accomplished it. And you will have left behind a legacy of you, for your family.
Your personal history can be recorded in a nice bound notebook or in a 3-ring binder. You can type it into your computer word processor and print it out. Whatever method you use, please do put your work onto acid free paper and into acid free sheet protectors. We want our work to be archival safe to last through the ages.
Need motivation and help? Go to:
What do I write about, you ask? For helpful ideas go to:
Make a "Scrapbook of Memories"
Come on...fess up! We are all pack rats when it comes to saving memorable "stuff". We go to a play, come home and stuff the program book and our ticket in a drawer. Right? Or we go on vacation somewhere extra fun and we save little brochures, scenic postcards and trinkets from the trip. Yes? Of course, we have to keep all our fun reminders of school years long ago, don't we?.....all those awards certificates, buttons, badges, flyers, strings, ribbons, material samples from sewing class, notes that our friends passed to us, athletic awards and letters.....right? You name it and we have it in a box or drawer....somewhere! Or.....maybe they are loose and strung out all over the house in various drawers and closets. Whatever.
Don't get me wrong. These memorable items are a very good thing. They represent our life...the things we were involved in...were a part of....and enjoyed. In a sense they kind of tell a story of our life, all by themselves.
But have you thought or even cared about what is going to happen to all your tangible "memories" when you should leave this life? If they are just laying around taking up space...chances are whoever goes through your effects will find a new home for them in the trash can, because they will have no real meaning for that person. But, if they were important enough for you to keep all these years, then they are important enough to weave into a type of story that you can leave for your family.
If I may, I will suggest how you can accomplish this project:
a) Go around your home and gather up every last shred of your tangible memories and put them into a box.
b) When you have collected everything, obtain some large 3 inch--3-ring (the D-ring kind) binders, acid free card stock (colored if you want), acid free sheet protectors, and 3x5 index cards.
c) Take an item from the box and on a 3x5 index card (or whatever you would like to use) put the name of the item and the year you obtained it. Also on the card, write some tidbits of information about the item and what is has meant to you. Attach the card to the item and mount the item onto a sheet of cardstock. Then slip the cardstock into a sheet protector and into your binder. For small items.. you can mount the item on the cardstock and write your information on the cardstock, next to the item. Each sheet in your "Scrapbook of Memories" binder should be kept numerically by year so it tells a chronological story of you. Yes, your scrapbook will be bulky.....but oh, so wonderful!! You may end up with many binders (be sure to number each binder) but all those treasures will be in one spot...telling your story.
d) For items that are way too big for the binder, label them with the cards the same way as above and fashion some kind of a fancy "heirloom" storage box. Make some kind of a label for the outside of the box with your name on it, the items inside, and what the items represent.
Have fun and enjoy this project.....your family will, because you made it with love for them as a legacy of you.
Prepare an Ancestor Photo Album
If you are like me, you have lots and lots of photos in envelopes and boxes. Now for this project, I not only consider my grandparents and great-grandparents as "ancestors", but I contemplate ahead and consider my parents and my siblings, also (hold-on)........for one reason. In not too many years from now, my children will be looking at photos of my parents (their grandparents) and my siblings (their aunts and uncles). They will show and hand down these photos to their children, making my parents their great-grandparents, my siblings their great aunts and uncles. Get the picture?
For Christmas of 2006, I made each of my children an ancestor photo album. I used a large, 3 inch, 3-ring binder (D-ring). Every sheet in the binder was put into an acid free sheet protector. The sheets within the sheet protectors were all back to back. The following steps are how I put my binders together. Perhaps these steps may inspire you to make your albums differently. Be creative and have fun with it, like I surely did.
1) The title of the binder was "Photo Album of the Ancestors of (my full name including maiden and married). I also made a binder spine insert of the same title.
2) Next, I made an index sheet listing all the different family sections in the binder. The first section was "The Photos in This Album Tell a Story...." The second section was "(my name)'s Parents"...third section was "(my name)'s Siblings"....fourth section was "(my name)'s Nieces and Nephews"....fifth section was "(my name)'s Grandparents".....and the last section was "(my name)'s Aunts, Uncles, Cousins"
3) In the first section called "The Photos in This Album Tell a Story...", I wrote a little story about each of the other family sections. For instance, the second section is my parents....so I told a little bit about my parents and my feelings about some things that might have happened. Next, I wrote a little bit about the next section which was about each of my siblings and my feelings. I did this for each of the remaining sections. All these stories were kept in the first section and I added a fancy border around these pages.
4) Between each of the family sections, I made a title sheet of that section and added a little bit of clip art to fancy it up.
5) After each title sheet, I placed a family group sheet that pertained to that particular family section. For instance, my parents section had a partial group sheet that showed just the two of them as husband and wife. At the top of the group sheet I made a title that said "(my name)'s Parents" My siblings section had a partial group sheet showing just us children with a title above it "(my name)'s Siblings". For the section on Grandparents, I put "(my name)'s Grandparents" and also added "Her Mother's Parents", or "Her Father's Parents", to distinguish which side of the family the photos were from. I also did this for the "Aunts, Uncles, Cousins" section....I added "Her Mother's Side", or "Her Fathers Side".
6) Then I began sorting and choosing the photos that I wanted to put into the albums, according to each section. I scanned the photos into my computer then grouped them to fit an 8x10 size sheet. Some photos I cropped out people, some I enlarged, some I made smaller. Under each photo I put the persons name and the date the photo was taken. Some of my family sections had 6-8 sheets of grouped photos. This will depend on how many photos you have to begin with, how many people you have in each family section, and how large you want to make the photos within each sheet. I just printed the grouped photo sheets out on regular printer paper and made the number of copies to match the number of binders I was putting together. I was pleased with the way the photos looked with just being printed on regular paper. You can use photo paper if that is what you choose to do. I kept all the original photos in my copy of the album.
Have great fun doing this project. I had the most wonderful feelings as I was putting my albums together...many different wonderful thoughts as I reminisced. My children love their ancestor photo album and I am so very glad that I did this project for them. It is something that can be passed on to their children and their children's children.
Make a "Book of Remembrance"
A "Book of Remembrance" is a collection of personal and family records and happenings that you regard as sacred. They may be put into acid free sheet protectors and into a 3-ring binder or something similar, that is acid free and archival safe. This book could contain the following:
- A Pedigree Chart including as many ancestors as you have been able to trace.
- Family Group Sheets for husbands and wives on the pedigree chart, including their children's names, dates and places.
- Certificates of any family members, such as birth, blessing, baptism, marriage, death, and copies of patriarchal blessings, special blessings, father's blessings, etc.
- Personal information about any individual on the family group sheets such as occupations, schools attended, faith-promoting experiences.
- Impressions at baptisms, ordinations, or marriages; special experiences.
- Summaries of blessings...blessings of children, confirmations, ordinations, blessings when we are set apart for various callings in the Church.
- Items related to spiritual blessing and heritage.
- Family histories.
- Selected accounts from the personal journals of family members.
- Family photographs with explanations (names, date, place, occasion, relationship to you).
- Our testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE SHOULD BE THE FAMILY'S SPIRITUAL HISTORY
A Project...If Your Hobby and Talent is Woodworking
I have two sons that have a side business and talent of making furniture and other items out of wood for people. They followed certain steps, which gave me this idea for a project you can leave for your family:
1) They sketched a picture of the item they were going to build.
2) Periodically as they were building the item, they would take photographs of it.
3) When the item was completed, they again took photographs of it from different angles.
4) They put their sketches and photographs of each item they built, into an album.
So, if your talent and hobby is creating things out of wood (or metal, or whatever).....follow the steps above and form a nice keepsake album of your work. Leaving an album such as this for your posterity will enrich their understanding of you and the talent you were blessed with. Maybe one of the items you make will become a family heirloom some day!
A Project...If You Have Taken Lots of Fun Trips
We all take trips....some more than others, .......some more fun than others!
A very interesting legacy that you can leave for your posterity is to write about your trips. Make it something like a travelogue and put the story of each trip into a 3-ring binder or album. Also include photographs of your trip. Leaving something like this tells more about you and where you liked to go and the sites you enjoyed.
When I was 18 years old, I traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles with about six college girls. We took two cars. Most of our trip was along the old Route 66 Highway. We had such a fun time. I would write detailed letters back home telling about each days journey....what area we covered and what we saw. Boy, would I give anything if I had those letters today!!! But, they were not kept...they do not exist any more. Those letters were part of my life and I shared something of myself through them. Maybe this is a good reminder to save all letters. Someday they will help tell a story of someone.
That is what leaving a legacy of ourself for our posterity is all about....leaving bits and pieces of our life, ourself, for others to know us by.
A Project...If You Have a Talent of Writing, Painting, or Music
We are told that we each have our very own talents. Talents come in different packages. Some talents are not thought of as talents, such as the ability to make people feel good about themself, or to always have a happy smile so that you make others smile, too.
Then there are the naturally thought of talents such as writing, painting, music, etc. The following are ideas of how you can leave your posterity a legacy of yourself through these types of talents that you may possess. AND ALWAYS REMEMBER....TO KEEP YOUR TALENTS YOU MUST USE THEM !!!
- If you have the talent.....write a book of poems or verses.
- If you have the talent.....write a book of short fictional stories.
- If you have the talent.....write some songs and put them into a binder.
- If you have the talent.....paint or draw some pictures and put them into a portfolio.
- Perhaps you have been called upon to write a program or a lesson for something. Maybe you have prepared talks for Church. Put a copy together and include a letter to your posterity explaining about it.
Quite a few years ago, I wanted to find a cookbook containing ALL Rhubarb recipes. I could not find one. So I went to the Library and brought home an armfull of cookbooks. I went through each one and each time I found a rhubarb recipe I typed it on an 8x10 sheet of paper. I made an index, a cover, wrote that I compiled the recipes and the date I did it, and I stapled it all together. I had maybe 40 pages of recipes......I had created my own Rhubarb Cookbook. This is something that my posterity will end up with. They will know that I enjoyed Rhubarb.
During one period of my life, I was always jotting down on small bits of paper my thoughts, impressions, or any inspirations I felt. I had several large manilla envelopes of these bits of paper. I thought about these last year, and figured after I left this life that whoever went through my effects would probably just toss them. I didn't want that to happen because they were part of me. So I took a 3-ring binder, filled it with alternating colored cardstock paper, and began pasting each piece of paper onto the cardstock. I would cut around the whole block of wording to form interesting shapes of paper. I made a title sheet for the binder that had my name on it and the words "Her Thoughts, Hopes, and Strivings". I included a letter to my family at the beginning of the binder, explaining about the binder and why I did it. Here again, is a way to leave a legacy of oneself for their posterity.
Our talents were meant to be shared not only today, but in the decades of the future... even after we have left this earth.
Keep a Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Personal Journal
A personal journal is a recording of a person's daily happenings in their life that have significance and importance. Ideally, this journal should be something we add to all our life. It may be entered into a hard bound entry book, a 3-ring binder, a spiral notebook, or such. You can even type it into a word processor, if you like. Some of the things it might contain are:
- Goals, hopes, and aspirations.
- Work experiences.
- Problems and how they were resolved.
- Joys and sorrows with family members.
- Relationships with others.
- Our deepest thoughts and spiritual feelings.
- Faith-promoting experiences.
- Significant personal and family events.
- Triumph over adversity.
- Special learning experiences.
- Personal spiritual testimony.
- Counsel for future generations who will read the journal.
A Project...If Your Talent and Hobby is Photography
I realize that lots of people enjoy taking photographs. This is one of the basic ways that most people share their life with their family....and family photos are passed on from generation to generation. Some people concentrate mostly on taking photos of their family....some concentrate on scenery, or both. And I also know that some people have boxes and boxes of these loose photographs tucked away, hoping to organize them.... someday.
Please find a solution for this dilemma and act upon it NOW. Photos are very precious, especially family ones. They need to be in an acid free environment as much as possible, to preserve them, because photos tend to deteriorate with the passing of time. They need to be in albums and be somewhat organized to be truly enjoyed. I am not talking mainly about the fancy "Scrapbooking" hobby. This can be very time consuming and costly. There are easier ways to organize photos. The following are some steps I will share with you to help you on your way:
- Begin by sorting your family photos into envelopes. I have an envelope for each of my children and their own family. If the photo contains that family, I put it in that envelope. I have envelopes labeled "Grandparents", "Siblings", "Aunts & Uncles", "Friends", etc. You can also do the same thing with scenery or photos of trips.
- When that is done, take one envelope at a time and sort the photos into time periods. On the back of your photos (and with a photo safe pencil), put the year, the names of who is in the photo and the place it was taken. You can use smaller envelopes to put photos from each time period.
- Now you are ready to think about how you want to do your albums. You can purchase "Photo Pages" which are acid free poly sheet protector type 8x10 size pages. These are sectioned off to hold 3x4 or 4x6 photos and they fit into 3-ring binders. All you have to do with these is slip your photos into the sections.
- Another way is to purchase acid free cardstock paper and 3-hole punch it and put them into a 3-ring binder. Get some acid free self adhesive photo corners which slip onto the corners of your photos and then can be mounted onto your cardstock pages. By the side of each photo you can write a little bit about the photo. I have seen albums done like this and the person has used a few cute stickers to spice up the page. One nice thing about using the photo corners is that you can pull the photo out of them if you need to read the back of it, or if you want to make copies, give them away, or whatever. If they are glued in, you cannot do this.
- Some people use acid free photo storage boxes. These are 3x5 or 4x6 size boxes that come with tabbed index separators that you write on, giving them some kind of a name or date depending on how you want to organize your photos that will be in that box. Behind the separators are all the photos pertaining to the name or date that is on the separator. If you want to view the photos behind one of the named separators, you just pull out the whole bunch of loose photos, flip through them and put them back behind the separator when you are through.
Quite a few years ago I used to arise very early in the morning, just before the sun came up, to go for my 2-mile walk. I observed the beautiful sunrises, so I got into the habit of bringing my camera along with me. I would take various photos of the beautiful sky in the morning and also began to take photos of the gorgeous sunsets at night. I ended up with stacks of these beautiful photos. Not very long ago, I decided to do something with them, as I felt they were something that I had gained much pleasure from. I also felt that these photos represented a part of me and that I could share them with my family, but in a more organized way. I bought a 3-ring binder and filled it with acid free colored cardstock paper. I sorted through the photos and chose the most beautiful ones and randomly glued them onto the cardstock. I chose not to write anything next to the photos, as I felt they spoke for themself. I gave the album the name "Sunrise--Sunset Album, Photos taken by (me)". I wrote an inside cover page to my family explaining about the album and how I enjoyed the sunsets and sunrises.
All these methods of organizing photos are good. It all depends on how you feel you want to do yours. I have offered ideas for simple, easy ways. There are lots of ideas you can find if you want to do yours differently.
Talents, Hobbies, and Interests in Other Areas
There are many ways and things that occupy our time. Some of them, hopefully, have become a nice extension of ourself...meaning they have helped us become the better person we are. Within this article, I have offered many project ideas that can be undertaken with the purpose of leaving our legacy (something of ourself) for our posterity. In this way we will be better known and understood by our family. Some of the talent projects were specific. If you have talents and hobbies in other areas not mentioned, you might consider compiling or displaying the information in some way as to express your interests and talents so that your posterity will come to know you better......and maybe discover these same talents and hobbies in themselves.