You're putting in lots of genealogy research…why not put it all together into some sort of genealogy project? I share genealogy project ideas to inspire you.
If you take the time to really delve into researching genealogy, then you will most likely end up with a few piles of information, photographs, and documents.
It would be sad to see your efforts not shared among family and friends, or your information not passed onto the next generation. There are several ways that you can commemorate your family’s history and your hard work, and I’d like to take the time to discuss a few.
Genealogy Project Ideas
Some of these may be out of the scope of your project, but I want to list them just in case there is someone out there who can make good use of the information.
Pssst: you'll also want to check out my article on totally free genealogy websites to help you along.
Project #1: Create a Family Tree or Pedigree Chart
Perhaps the simplest way that you can commemorate the information you uncover is by creating a family tree or a pedigree chart. Here are three that I found to be useful during my research:
- Family Tree Builder Software
- Martha Stewart’s Fan Pedigree Chart
- Pedigree Chart you can edit on your computer
Once you fill out the chart, you might want to make it more formal or decorative to give out to others. Perhaps you just would like to print it out and frame it for your wall (if you can, print your family tree on acid-free paper so that it will stand the test of time a bit better).
Project #2: Research a Coat of Arms or Family Crest
If you find that your ancestors are from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of the Commonwealth (including Australia and New Zealand), then you might want to research the possibility of a coat of arms or family crest within your family. A coat of arms is an emblem or a device which is displayed by titled persons, persons of royal blood, and their descendants. The origination of the coats of arms was on the colors displayed on soldier’s shields for the purposes of identification and recognition during the Middle Ages. Eventually the soldiers began including an embroidered surcoat over their shields, and it became known as the coat of arms. A Crest was worn by individual knights on their helm, and included part of their coat of arms. In 1483, King Edward IV established the College of Arms (aka Heralds' College) to oversee and regulate the granting of coats of arms. Today, the College of Arms maintains registers of arms, pedigrees, genealogies, Royal Licences, changes of name, and flags.
Armorial bearings are hereditary, and you must prove that you are a descendent in a legitimate male line of the person to whom the armorial bearing was originally granted or confirmed (and they must be in the register of the College of Arms). You also must go through the Officer in Waiting at the College of Arms, who will assess a fee for attempting to identify your coat of arms or crest. Also, note that a coat of arms is granted to individuals and families and not to entire surnames.
Project #3: Document Historical Landmarks
My Uncle Andy pointed out that I should look into registering our farm in PA as a Centennial Farm (actually, as a Sesquicentennial Farm, as we think it has been in our family for over 150 years). In order to qualify for our state specifically, a family member must be living on the farm permanently, the farm must consist of at least 10 acres OR the farm must gross at least $1,000 in annual sales from farm products (check, check, and check).
Do you think your home would qualify for an historical placard? You might want to look into local historical societies if you have uncovered specific historical information about your home or another building (if you need help researching your house, check out this article). You can start your research at the National Register of Historic Places Program, which lists a way to contact each of the State Historic Preservation Officers.
Project #4: Write Your Family History
Depending on how extensively you have researched your family history, you may wish to write a family history book. This can chronicle stories, photographs, locations, or even family recipes. Two examples I could find are for the Bower Family, and for the Mulvaney Family.
You can also donate your family history book to the Library of Congress, a local library, or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City Utah so that future generations may find it.
Project #5: Engrave a Family Member’s Name onto a Memorial
If you have a family member who came to the United States through Ellis Island, you can add their name to the American Immigrant Wall of Honor. Currently the cost is $22, and that comes with a certificate in an embossed folder. The engraving is done through The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
Project #6: Contribute to the Veterans History Project
Thanks to Tracey, I found out that my great Uncle Pete is a part of the Veterans History Project. This project collects first-hand accounts of US Veterans from the following wars: WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts. It turns out that my great Uncle Pete was a prisoner of war during WWII (thank you to Aunt Molly for sending me the transcript).
Family Genealogy Projects – Our Own
Do you ever try to trace something in your present life back to the one thought that began it all? Following the web of synapses as your mind jumps from thought to visual to thought (in reverse) often uncovers associations and influences picked up along the way that you never knew had any effect on you. The one thought or object that connects the beginning and the ending of this maze is often quite surprising.
Enter a bright blue dish that caught my eye from my Aunt Anita’s mother’s home in Florida. Back in 2007 my aunt flew down to Florida in order to help her mother sift through decades of living so that she could move in with one of her daughters. Among other objects I gratefully inherited, there was this pretty light blue pitcher that I could not take my eyes off of. It was given to me that day, and I kept it during my 2008 move to Houston. Upon seeing this dish in my home several years later, my grandmother boxed up her mother’s dishes and gave these to me because they were the same set. Last year after we redecorated our kitchen, we dedicated two shelves to permanently displaying my great grandmother’s dishes.
A Catalyst to My Curiosity
This dish set became a fixture to our kitchen and to my wandering thoughts over the last year or so. What was my great grandmother like? What was that Hungarian prayer that my grandmother used to say at our holiday gatherings? Why do we eat things like Turkta Cobbasta (later found out this is Töltött Káposzta) at Christmas and something that phonetically sounds like Yedosh Kenyed at New Year’s? Why did my great-great-grandparents—only four short generations ago—decide to come to America?
My own maze of thoughts began when I picked up that original, eye-catching pitcher, and ended in a large genealogy project.
Our Hungarian Genealogy Project
My grandmother is 100% Hungarian. Her parents were both 100% Hungarian, and the parents of each of her parents actually came over from Hungary. I think it’s such a rarity in these times to have 100% of anything in the United States, let alone of an ethnicity, and this motivated me to permanently commemorate our heritage. After much thinking I came up with the idea to create a genealogy recipe scrapbook to include our history, our recipes (both Hungarian ones as well as Mom-Mom’s good ole’ recipes I want to make in my own kitchen), and photos of my grandmother’s l
It’s such a rarity in these times to have 100% of anything in the United States, let alone of an ethnicity. Click To Tweet
My grandmother and I embarked on this big genealogical project in the fall of last year. I’m sure she thought I was a little crazy when I first asked if she’d be a willing participant. However, I think we’ve both had fun working together. Once the project took shape I came up with various needs from my grandmother. She took the time to answer all of my questions, go through her belongings, and carefully write down a small book’s worth of information and recipes. After each task completion I received a wonderful package in the mail. One package contained all of our Hungarian family recipes, another contained 50+ photos of relatives, and a third contained memories Mom-mom had surrounding the various recipes.
Then I planned an Easter trip home to spend time with family and friends as well as to conduct some genealogical research. Over the course of two weeks my grandmother and I cooked several of her recipes together, talked about her past, recorded lots of information, and found a treasure trove of documents and photographs dating back to our family’s life in Hungary. We were even able to corroborate what I had found with my genealogy research online with newspaper clippings, stories, and photos that she had in her home. It was deeply satisfying, and a huge success!
There are several tools that I used that would be very helpful to pass along in case I have planted a seed in your brain about embarking on a similar project.
- Free Pedigree Chart: I had a few issues finding a pedigree chart that I could type onto. In the end, I settled on this one. While it did not make it into the photo book (I have some more research to do before I feel comfortable about a few pieces of information), I am going to include it in the end by affixing an envelope to the front or back page and including it inside.
- Free Photo Scanners: It turns out that to have someone hand-feed photos into a photo scanner at places like Office Depot is really expensive ($2.99 per page!). So if you can source a photo scanner to use for free, then you will save yourself a lot of money. I was fortunate enough to be able to use several family members’ printers to complete this task.
- Photo Book: If you missed my article on 10 Unique Ways to Use Photo Books, you may want to check it out for information on how to score one for free. Also, see below for a photo book giveaway sponsored by Shutterfly.
- Free PDF to JPG converter: This free service was monumentally important to our project as it enabled me to convert any file into jpg format, which is the format photo book companies use.
Be careful what you surround yourself with, what you read, and the things that catch your fancy—you never know where they will take you. For me, I was fortunate to have that beautiful blue pitcher cross my path. The 100+ hours or so my grandmother and I have dedicated to this project has been well worth the time, effort, and potential early-onset carpal tunnel syndrome (she has handwritten around 50 pages, some front and back). We’ve lost our Hungarian language. But now we will never lose our recipes. And these preserved recipes will taste all the sweeter with our background story intact.