When you’re into genealogy, it’s natural to want to give family history themed gifts, but sometimes they miss the mark. Here are 5 easy gifts that you can put together that will delight your family, along with a gift that you might want to think twice about.
Generations Cafe Podcast, Episode 53
We’ve all had it happen. We want to give a family history gift, but we aren’t sure what to give to family members who aren’t quite as into genealogy as we are. They appreciate the stories, but they’re not really that into the research. Here are 5 you can put together easily.
1. A Family History Themed Calendar
Everyone enjoys seeing who shares a birthday with them and since everyone needs a calendar, this is a great family history gift. I like adding birthdates and anniversaries on the calendar. You don’t have to put the dates for every person in your family tree on this calendar. (That might be a little bit overwhelming, especially if you have a large tree!) You could list just the dates of the direct ancestors of the person who you’re giving the calendar to.
Many genealogy programs have a feature where you can print a calendar report. You could also download a calendar template or use Google Calendar and add the names and dates yourself. You could also buy a ready-made calendar and write in the information yourself.
You can make it as fancy or as simple as you want.
Besides adding birthdays and anniversaries, consider adding major events, such as dates of arrival, naturalization, military service, graduations, etc.
2. Family Photo Books
There’s nothing quite like a family photos to get people talking. You can put together family photo book even if you don’t have lots of “old” family photos. Even though we often think first of photos from the 1800s, what about photos from the 1900s? Photo album of the more recent generations can be just as meaningful. Do you have any photos from the 1940s, 50s, or 60s? And consider this: 1980 was 40 year ago!
You could also go a simpler route and print out some pictures yourself and put them into an archivally safe photo album or scrapbook. Now the cool thing about this, it’s a little bit more flexible, probably less expensive, and can be a lot of fun to put together.
No matter how you do it, add some “journaling” — include the who, what, when, where, and why of the photo.
3. Digitized Letters or Journals
If you are fortunate enough to have some ancestral letters, a diary, or a journal, digitize and transcribe those.
Like photo books, you can do this as simply or elaborately as you’d like. You could send that off to a photo book service, or you could print it out yourself. You could have good color copies made at your local office supply store or your local print shop. (Many office supply stores will even do softcover binding.)
Adding the transcription will make it easier for people to read. You could even add a section with annotations. If you have a series of letters and they mention people or places, you could add a note explaining who they were.
4. Family Recipe Cookbook
This is a fun one! Include the recipes that you always have at family gatherings — the ones that make holidays complete. Yes, even the recipes for the dishes that nobody really likes, but it has to be on the table anyhow.
If you have the actual recipe, digitize that and include it. (It’s always fun to see “old” styles of measuring and references to ingredients we don’t really use anymore.)
If I was going to put a cookbook together, it would include the recipe that mom has used for Christmas cookies called “Texas Lizzies.” They’re like tiny fruitcakes, which sounds kind of strange, but they’re really good.
5. Framable Graphics
The fifth idea for a family history themed gift is a framable quote or graphic. Is there a saying that pops up in your family a lot? How about pulling a quote from an ancestral letter or journal? You can go to a site like Canva (which has a free plan), upload a photo, and add the quote on top. You could also make a montage of family photos or put together flags representing where your ancestors came from.
Something fun, something simple.
A Gift You Might Want to Reconsider
You might have noticed one thing I didn’t include on this list: a large, printed family history.
There’s a reason for that. It isn’t that I don’t think that we should be writing about our family history; I do. I think that we all need to write more about our family history.
However, if we’re giving a gift to someone who is not a genealogist and they’re really not into the research process, a 200-page family history will likely seem overwhelming. They likely won’t understand how to read the charts or how to navigate a numbering system to go from generation to generation.
One of the things about giving a gift is understanding the recipient. If you’re wanting to spark a curiosity about family history, handing someone a 200 page book that has hundreds of footnotes, charts that they can’t follow, and use a numbering scheme that they don’t understand, that’s probably just going to lead to frustration rather than a sense of curiosity.
Rather than being disappointed in their reaction to the massive family history tome you’ve compiled, give the non-genealogists in the family something that is a little smaller, a little more practical, a little more fun. Spark their curiosity with that, and then later you can entice them with the big family history book.