Getting Relatives Interested in Family History

The holidays have come and gone, and once again we went home to the grandparents. My husband and I are lucky that we have all our parents living in the same town. It makes the logistics for scheduling visits much easier, and we feel very lucky that we don’t have to figure out whom to visit when and where. There was even a white Christmas; something that would not have happened if we had stayed in Virginia. To top it off, this year we even brought gifts, not just their grandchildren!

When I started doing my and my husband’s family research, I really wanted everyone in my life to be excited about it. Unfortunately, not everyone shared this enthusiasm. While I felt disappointed, I still wanted to spread the excitement I felt with anyone who would let me. I really wanted to make something to give as a gift that was inspired by our family history. The question was what? Together, my husband and I came up with the idea of personalized family trees. Simple, wasn’t it? I made a joint tree for my parents and single trees for his father and mother, all going back 3-4 generations. The image here shows the finished products. I have to say, they went over very well.

While at home I also did some closet ransacking: it seems that I have not outgrown old habits. I emptied the closet in the guest bedroom we stay in (my old bedroom has long since become my mother’s study) and found a load of goodies! There were old pictures, documents, and letters among the contents. It was the only closet I was allowed to search, even though I did try to poke around the storage room.

Mom and I also went through one of three plastic tubs she has from her mom’s house. In it was an unbelievable treasure trove, and I am sad we did not have the time to go through the other two. In the tub we found hundreds of pictures; unfortunately most were unlabeled. There were also a lot of items from when my grandfather was in the military; including a caricature of him as a farewell gift signed by the men he was stationed with. There was even a WWII ration book that still had stamps in it. At the bottom I found a subscription card for a company or union with my grandmother’s name on it. Mom told me that Grandma worked for Bendix making airplanes during the war in Michigan. I never knew that, and it simply amazed me that after all the talks we had this piece of information never came out.

My mother-in-law contributed to the genealogical discoveries by bringing a bag of pictures and documents over too. This led me to a marathon scanning session of about 200 items. Pictures, records, letters… needless to say I have a lot of stuff to go through. I was also able to do a brief interview with my father-in-law. It helped confirm information I had found in online records and gave me a few more leads in the search for his family.

Overall I feel that it was a very productive trip on the genealogy side of things. There is quite a bit of work in front of me, and I can’t wait to share what I have found!


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.


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8 thoughts on “Getting Relatives Interested in Family History

  1. What a wonderful post! So glad you had such a successful and fun visit. I love the trees and am wondering how you made them. That would make a nice gift indeed.

  2. I was wondering what program you used to make the family trees? I would like to make one for my grandmother.

    Thanks!

  3. These trees were not made on a program…just with paper, glue, decorations and mailing labels!

  4. Hi Shannon,
    Great article and I love the family trees! When I click on link you provided about the trees, it says that the page does not exist.

  5. Oh thanks for taking care of that Kerry! I was just about to get my resident IT person and beg for help.

    Glad you all like the post and the trees. I have to say that I have been surprised by the response; never thought handmade trees would be so popular. If anyone wants to know any more about what I did just let me know!

  6. I posted on your blog also, but still wanted to thank you here for sharing this with us! They are beautiful AND handmade. Thanks!

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