Family Trees With a Creative Twist

I am sure I am not alone in the habit of staying up, past my bedtime and my common sense, devouring the bread crumb trail left by the details of document after document, my heart trilling as one crumb leads to the next!  The thrill of discovery, the sheer fulfillment of a genealogical mystery solved, these are the emotion triggering moments I adore as a family historian.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels as we do.  The excitement of every archival treasure is lost on many family members.  I am lucky I have a husband who humours me as I ramble on about my latest genealogical revelation.  He does feel joy in seeing my happiness sparked but I can often see his eyes glaze over as I recount the minute details of my research process. When others, including family members, have little appreciation for vital records, census records, and city directories, as genealogists, we often become far more insular and our genealogical research becomes a solitary pursuit!  I have been eager to share my finds in ways which I hope will excite family members and appeal to their sense of family wonder and curiosity.  One of my goals this year is to just that!

My first attempt has been to create a family tree for my brother-in-law’s birthday this month.  I debated printing off a computer generated tree, perhaps a fan chart or pedigree chart.  Though these can be lovely I wanted to add a personal touch and I wanted to highlight the family photos I had collected.  Photos often bring people to life.  Looking into the eyes of our ancestors pulls them from the page and the world of the theoretical, into the world of tangible humanity.  I believe once one comes to the realization that his/her ancestors were real people–once living, feeling, and breathing as we do now—he/she becomes more interested in who they were. The family tree I wanted to create would not just be a print decorating a wall but rather would be a prompt to further questioning and conversation.

I am lucky to possess a mediocre ability for the artistic and it is fortuitous that the look of distressed antiques is in vogue for this was the impetus for this project!

The Chalkboard Family Tree

~I refinished a dull old wooden mirror frame with chalk paint, waxing, and distressing in a vintage colour.

~I used an old chalk board I had in my workshop (use a reclaimed chalkboard as I did or create your own with a chalk board paint)

~I drew the tree, and wrote the names and dates with a Chalk Marker (available at your local craft store)

~I printed the photos myself to create the sizes I wanted and I cut them using various scrapbooking cutting tools.

~Finally, I adhered the photos to the chalkboard using an acid-free double sided tape used by many scrapbookers and crafters.