Have you been trying to involve your teenagers and children in your family history efforts to no avail? Try devoting a wall in your home to family history and see if you can spark some interest. In 2000, our family had outgrown our small starter home and we moved into a house with twice the square footage. With all that space came a lot of empty walls. I hadn’t started actively researching my ancestors yet, but I wanted my children to start feeling some connections. I decided to make a family history wall.
My starting point was the purchase of an antique picture frame that was just begging for a fan chart. I enlisted 14 year old Nicole’s help and put her artistic talents to use. She designed and hand wrote each entry on the chart. I’m not even sure how we found all of the information because we didn’t have the collaborative tree on Family Search.org, the resources of Ancestory.com or even a stand alone genealogical program. We did have histories and family group sheets from both sides of the family and did our best to fill out the chart. You can see we had some ancestors without even a birth date.
I wanted to add photos to the family tree wall, so I asked my mother and mother-in-law to send me any photos they had of themselves, and their parents, and their spouse’s parents. I had hoped to find uniform, close up photos with each individual as a young adult, but, as that wasn’t always possible. I had the photos printed, found frames that matched the antique frame and our family history wall was born.
We moved two years after designing the wall, but it found a new home on a new wall. Nicole and I started our journey of genealogical discoveries and soon had the fan chart information verified and supplemented. I didn’t have the heart to redo the fan chart, though. Each time I looked at it, I thought of my daughter painstakingly lettering each ancestor’s information. It just felt like such an important link between generations.
But . . . this year at RootsTech, I dutifully entered multiple drawings at the vendor booths, not expecting to win anything. A few weeks later, I received an email from Matt and Carolyn Reynolds at familytree-branches.com. I had won an $100 gift certificate! Of all the vendor booths at RootsTech, this was one of my favorites. I had decided it might be fun to update our fan chart and I loved their art work.
All I had to do was follow the simple instructions on the website and I would receive a digital copy of my new and improved fan chart. In an email, I entered in each ancestor’s name, birth date, and birth place and submitted it. Two days later, Matt sent me the proof to check. I found three corrections, emailed those back to Matt and he updated the fan chart. I also asked for the chart in a custom size that would fit my frame, which Matt readily complied with. Next I needed a place to print my file. I looked into a couple of professional printing companies, but decided to try the local FedEx business instead. The young man helping me was a wizard with the equipment and for under $10, I had a beautiful copy of my fan chart ready for framing.
Nowadays, multiple computer programs can create a fan chart for you if you decide to create a family tree wall of your own. I highly recommend Matt and Carolyn’s business if you want a little something extra.
I am so pleased with my artistic, new fan chart. I couldn’t bring myself to toss the one Nicole lettered, so I tucked it away for safekeeping. The new fan chart includes birth places, which is a really great addition. Whenever an ancestor comes up in family conversation, we head to the wall to find them. Having the pictures of their grandparents and great grandparents displayed in our family room has been a meaningful way to help my children and now my grandchildren discover their ancestors.