Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation...

...or how I tricked my family into a Genealogical Holiday!!

I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering how to create more interest in my genealogical pursuits among my family. I know many of you are familiar with the glazed looks that appear anytime the subject of family history is ever so subtly dropped into a conversation. Oh, some members of the family will humor you and at least TRY to look interested for awhile, but oddly enough none of them ever seem to actually get excited when you tell them that yes, you finally found great-great uncle Zephaniah on the 1880 census - listed as an inmate of the Podunk County Jail.

Well this Christmas I resorted to games and bribery ~ and it worked!

I have 2 nieces and a nephew who are all teenagers. During a lull in our Christmas morning activities I brought out a pile of presents and told them I had a game that would result in their winning some of this loot. [I do have to say that they are all very good-natured kids and are used to humoring their slightly wacky aunt.]

I had put together a family tree for each of them and worked back through their great-grandparents...except that the 8 greats were all blank. [in the example here I have deleted some of the information, but the originals had all had full names and birth dates etc]

I also gave each of them a list of 20 question and told them that they would have to work together because contained within their questions were answers that would help them fill in a few of the blanks but not all of them (each one of them had different questions.)

Some of the questions were straightforward - "Who is your father's father's father?" Others required them to go around and talk to multiple people - "Who had a dog named 'Stinky' and how did he get that name?" Still others required them to take my hand-held recorder and interview someone to get the answer - "How, when and where did you Dad propose to your Mom? - and then get your Mom's version of the story."

The reward for finishing their family tree and list of questions was to pick one of three presents. First one finished got the first choice. In addition there was a smaller present attached that would go to whichever adult couple they were "competing" for. So, when my youngest niece finished first, she picked her present and the attached present went to my Mom & Dad. Once all the gifts were selected and everyone (or each couple) had one they all opened them. Of course when they unwrapped the presents they soon discovered that they were all the same - a family history calendar that I had created using Ancestry.com's MyCanvas application. I've attached a slide show of the calendar below.

Everyone loved the pictures and actually asked me questions about who they were and how they were related. It was so much fun. At one point my nephew said to me, "What are we going to do next year? We will have to get different relative so we can have more questions." I told him not to worry, I have a lot more stories and questions about his current relatives. I was just thrilled that they really seemed to think this was now a family tradition and wanted to do it again next year.

The final bonus was having 9 short audio clips created...but that's a story for another post.


  1. It sounds like everyone had fun and they all have a gift that they will cherish long after 2010 is over. You did a great job on the calendar.

  2. Your calendar is fabulous, Diana! WOW. I need to look at this next Fall when I get ready to do my 2011 calendar...just for motivation. I know how much work they are..you did a wonderful job!

  3. Awesome job on the calendar Diana...I'm envious of your talent!

  4. What a terrific idea. I have to look that up on ancestry. I have come up with some pretty strange ideas to interest family in genealogy. I'm afraid they all think I am pretty wacky, too.

  5. Hi all!! Thanks so much for the comments. I appreciate you all "stopping by" as I know I haven't been around much lately.

    I'm really not all that creative...this was just a template sort of thing that mostly I dropped pictures in. I did change May & June for Mothers day and Fathers day which is why the fonts don't match.

    It was so much fun to do :-)

  6. I think these are some great ideas and can't wait to try it when my children and their cousins are a few years older. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Great idea! I made some MyCanvas calendars a year ago for Christmas presents (2008) and not only were they beautiful, but they were high quality as well.

    I love the "scavenger" hunt twist on things, too!

  8. I love the idea of getting the kids to do recorded interviews, Diana. Also think the game idea could be great at a family reunion.

    Your calendar is gorgeous!!

  9. Hi all ~
    Tracy - when the kids were little I did a book called "Mouser Really True Stories" about them. They LOVED it!

    Yes, Miriam...I probably should have mentioned how happy I was with the quality. It was really impressive!! And I think this template that I used was new this year - they are always adding new things. It keeps me coming back :-)

    TK - Come back soon! I'm going to (try) a post with the audio. I just need to add some pictures and figure out how to edit it :-) Hopefully it will be this week.

  10. That is one awesome, beautiful calendar, Diana. Thanks for sharing it.

  11. I'm about a year late on this one, but wow that calendar is truly special. Thanks for sharing!


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