Has this ever happened to you – your kid asks you a question about their heritage and you don’t quite know what to say? How can you describe your lineage in words, without drawing convoluted diagrams? The answer is simple, just two words – family tree.
If you want to tell your kids about your family history and do it in a way that engages them, then creating a family tree together is the perfect thing to do. But what is a family tree exactly? In a nutshell, it is a chart of all your relatives that goes deep into generations, for as long as you can recall. This chart can be digital or physical, schematic or artistic, comprehensive or laconic. Want to create a chart like this to walk down memory lane with the younger generation? Then you need a few tips on how to make a family tree. Luckily, we come prepared with a little how-to guide that will help you make this creative process not just easy, but also enjoyable.
- Start with Some Research
Before you actually start creating, you need to complete the most important, and most often difficult, task. You need to gather as much information about your family as possible. Start with the easiest step. Make a list of every family member you can recall. Do not just limit yourself to names. Recall the dates of birth, occupations, the greatest achievements, or other things that are worth mentioning. Once your memory runs dry, involve your older relatives. Visit or call them to gather further information that would go deeper into the past generations. In this step, make sure to get your hands on as many old photos of your relatives as you can. If you have very few people to ask, or if they don’t remember that much, you can recruit outside help. If your budget permits, you can use paid services to gather information on your relatives that you would otherwise be unable to obtain.
- Proceed with a Draft
The next step involves a bit of planning. Once you have all the data in your hands, you need to decide what information to use. First off, how far back are you going to go in terms of generations? Could there be people that deserve to be excluded for various reasons? What data are you planning to include in the chart? Will just names, dates, and relations be enough, or do you want to disclose more about your forebears? Roughly sketch your family tree, and you’ll have answers to all these questions.
- Be Sure to Restore Your Images
Since time is a cruel thing, chances are that photos of your ancestors have fallen victim to it. Does this mean that your family tree project will be imageless? Absolutely not. You just need to restore your old and damaged photos. Begin by digitizing them—you can simply run them through a scanner or photograph them anew. Then you can move on to repairing the damage. You’ll need a handy photo restoration program for the job. Make sure to heal cracks and rips and boost dull colors. Restoring your old photos is beneficial not only for your family tree project. It is actually a great way to keep the family archive intact and keep your old and precious photos saved in digital form.
- Move on to Crafting
Now you have the list of relatives, the data you want to put down, and your restored photos. It’s time to get down to business. You’ll need a large piece of cardboard, glue, scissors, a sharpie, and paints. By the way, this is the step where you can fully involve your younger ones in the process. Have them craft the tree by drawing it and its many branches, then gluing repaired photos onto it. Whoever has the most beautiful penmanship gets to write down the names, dates, and relations. While your kids are busy DIYing, you can tell them stories about their ancestors and how you were able to gather all this information. Once you are through with your family tree, be sure to proudly display it in your home and send a pic to all the distant relatives that helped you with the research.
And this is how you create a family tree chart. This activity goes way beyond being just a way to recall all your relatives and tell stories about them. In fact, exposure to one’s family history has a tremendous effect on children as it helps them form their sense of self. Kids who have a stronger involvement in their family history grow up to be more emotionally healthy. Not a bad perk for a seemingly simple family tree project, right?