When I was around eleven years old I had the chance to visit a family history library where I was first introduced to the world of genealogy. I remember filling out my five generation family tree with all the names, dates, and places of those who had come before me. After completing the worksheet, I remember feeling a sense of belonging and the sense of place in this big old world. I loved seeing how I was connected to these people who made me who I am. Some of the people on my family tree I had close relationships with and knew very well. Some of them had passed on before I was born and were only names and dates staring back at me. Over the years I have made it a point to get to know the stories of the people on that list and have even branched out a little further back than 5 generations. I have learned that doing family history is more than just knowing names and dates of those on your family tree, it is sharing their stories, baking their recipes, and simply talking about the lives they lived. In my home I have tried to incorporate fun ways to remember the people who have come before us in hopes that it will also give my children a sense of place and connection to their ancestors as well. Here are 6 fun family history ideas to help you branch out from your family tree and incorporate family history in your homes.
Branch Out From Your Family Tree With 6 Fun Family History Ideas
#1. Display Pictures of Ancestors in Your Home
I love looking through old family pictures to see where I got my big hazel eyes or where my two redheaded kids got their “ginger locks”. One of my all-time favorite things in my home is a family history gallery wall. For many years I knew I wanted a place in my home to display pictures of our ancestors so my children would be able to actually see and know who they come from. (In the coming months I will do a blog post on how exactly I did this gallery wall, but I wanted to share it with you now as part of this post.) My husband and I both collected pictures of our relatives from our parents and grandparents and together we came up with this beautiful work of art full of friendly faces. My favorite thing about this picture wall is when my children ask about who somebody is we are related to, and we can go straight to our wall and see the person’s picture without having to dig through books or boxes. I also love being able to look at the pictures each day and remember the stories that shaped their lives. It helps me have perspective on my life and feel more connected to them even though they are gone.
#2. Visit the Places Your Ancestors Lived
One of my favorite things to do is go and visit the places where my ancestors lived, walked, worked, and played. It gives me a sense of connection and a place where I can picture in my mind when I hear their stories. I have great memories driving through the streets of Ogden, Utah and hearing my grandma talk about her childhood. It was a great experience to visit the school where my Grandpa taught and actually stand in his classroom. This was especially memorable since I never got to meet him. It was so fun calling my grandma on the phone while on a trip to Florida and having her tell me about the adventures she had spending her childhood summers at the “Peckham place” while I was right there at the “Peckham Place” staring at it in real life. I loved taking a trip with my dad and seeing his childhood home in North Carolina. Standing in the home my mother grew up in and listening to her talk about growing up with 6 siblings in her humble home was also an amazing experience. (It was for sale and the door was unlocked) Taking a tour of the cafe, which used to be the home where my Great Grandparents raised my Grandfather was nostalgic for me and fun for the kids, not to mention we got to eat a yummy treat at the end of the tour. Still to this day, while driving past my Great Grandparents’ home in the city where I live, I honk the horn on my car just like we did every time we left their home when I was a child. My Great Grandpa wouldn’t go back in the house from the porch unless we completed this horn-honking tradition. Such a great memory. Taking time to go to the places where your ancestors spent their lives will connect you to them. I highly suggest it.
#3. Cook and Eat the Foods They Loved
Every Sunday while growing up we would eat Sunday Dinner at my Grandma’s house after church. My grandma was an amazing cook and put so much love, planning, and time into every meal she made for us. As she was getting older and her ability to cook for a large family started to fade, I knew the recipes she had made over the years needed to be in a special place so we would have them for years to come. One afternoon I went to her home and talked with her about every recipe she had in her little yellow recipe box. I took notes of what she said about each recipe. I wrote down where she got the recipes from, any tips or suggestions she had, and which ones were her favorites. I then took her little recipe cards and the information she had given me and created a little family cookbook. In the cookbook I included copies of her handwritten recipe cards (seeing her handwriting now makes me happy) and did not change a thing. I love that it is not perfectly written or typed. It’s straight from my Grandma Hodges and it makes me happy every time I look through her book. When I fill my home with the smells and tastes of my Grandma Hodges’ Chicken Spaghetti or make her frozen cheesecake (recipes to come) I feel my grandma close… especially if I wear her favorite apron that I inherited.
#4. Tell Their Stories
Your ancestors have amazing stories. Do you know any of them? A great way to keep their stories alive is to turn them into a book. A few years ago my Aunt made this darling little book for each member of our family about one of our ancestors. She took a story she knew about one of our ancestors, did some research, found some pictures, typed it up, and turned it into a children’s book. It turned out absolutely darling and my kids love it. My Aunt wrote the story in first person and geared it towards children so it’s a perfect read for anyone. Just keep in mind, you do not need to include an entire life story. It can just be about one event in the person’s life.
#5 Display and Use the Things You Inherit
Over the years my husband and I have inherited a few different items from our grandparents after they have passed away. I love having these items in my home as a reminder of my grandparents. I also love that we can have a connection to these people by using or seeing their items every day. I love going to my Grandma’s yellow sewing box when I need to sew on a button, decorating my kitchen with my grandma’s yellow pitcher and grease tin, having my husband’s Grandma’s artwork on our walls, and sitting at my Great Grandpa’s desk while I type this post. Of course, sitting at this desk always reminds me that it used to smell strongly of the Spearmint gum he kept in the top drawer. My children love hearing little stories like this.
#6. Take the Time Now to Ask Questions
Have you ever wondered what it was like when your ancestors saw their first car, watched the moon landing, lived during a world war, or fell in love? Ask them. Take time to interview your living relatives because before you know it those stories will be long forgotten and those relatives may be gone. There are many ways to gather a life history from a person and there are lots of resources online to help. You will never regret taking the time to ask questions and have a way to preserve the answers. A few weeks ago we were at my mom’s home and she had a very old family video playing. In the video my parents were interviewing my Great Grandparents. I was totally glued and couldn’t get enough. It has been years since I have heard their voices. My favorite part was listening to them laugh. Oh it brought me back and made me so happy. I am so glad my parents took the time to ask them questions and get them talking. Do the same with your relatives, you will not regret it!
I absolutely love this quote because it sums up exactly what I have been wanting to share with this post!
I hope this post inspires you to do at least one thing to get to know your ancestors better or to share their stories. Whether you are displaying pictures, visiting places, cooking a familiar recipe, displaying something they loved or used, asking questions and recording them, or simply telling their stories, you are doing/sharing family history.
This post is part of the #MyForeverFamily Challenge. Click here to find tons of amazing resources to help your family focus on Christ and building a forever family this Easter season. You can follow along by searching for #MyForeverFamily on social media or keep checking on #MyForeverFamily page.