How To Display Genealogy

Whether wanting to display a small family tree, or a concise genealogical history, this article offers several tips and ideas on how to showcase your family's history.

For a genealogist, hunting down ancestral information is a lot like detective work. One must have patience, perseverance, and the ability to pay attention to minute details. This work is something that often goes unnoticed and unrewarded, in part because no one sees the work that has been done. The task of taking the information gathered by the genealogist and creating an interesting display can be a difficult one. There are three things to consider before creating a display.

Who is the intended audience?

If the audience for the genealogical display is comprised of friends and family members, the method for displaying the information will be quite different than if the audience is comprised primarily of other genealogical researchers or made up of strangers.

What purpose will the display serve?

Is the genealogical display intended to engage conversation about specific people, places, or events? Is its purpose to educate individuals about their ancestry, their specific family tree? Does the genealogist intend his research to be utilized by others researching genealogy? Each of these purposes can result in very different types of displays.

How much information is available?

Has the genealogist focused on a small family tree? Perhaps gathering information for only three or four generations (children, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents), or has she delved deeply into genealogy, researching the family history to its historical roots? Has only one line of a family been followed, or has the genealogist researched multiple branches? How much information is known about the various family members who have been researched? Are only basic records available (dates of birth, marriage, death), or are there anecdotes? Answering these questions is an important first step in creating displays of genealogical records.

Once a person has answered these questions, he'll have an idea of which of the three main categories his genealogical display will fall under.

Family Tree: this category is most appropriate when the audience is comprised of family and friends of the genealogist, and when the focus of the display is on an immediate family and its close relatives within three generations (great, great, great grandparents). Further back than that tends to make the tree look crowded and it becomes hard to read.

Family History: this category is most appropriate when the genealogist has gathered a lot of information about her family and generally includes at least some anecdotes. Depending on the chosen method of display, a family history can be an appropriate way to create a personal history for family and friends, or a way to present information to all who are interested.

Family Genealogy: this category is the most comprehensive of the three. Family genealogy is comprised of many historical records, dates, places, and names. Multiple branches have usually been explored to some extent, and the family history has been traced back several generations.

Display Ideas:

**Family Tree**

- Family Tree Quilt - For the person who enjoys quilting this can be an ideal project. There are two basic patterns for a family tree quilt, each featuring a large tree as the centerpiece. The first design has leaves on each branch of the tree. Each leaf has the name, birth date, and (if applicable) date of death for a person on that branch of the family. The branches can give a family name or marriage date of the parents, or any other relevant information.

The second design focuses on the branches, rather than the leaves. The trunk has children's names and two main branches forking from it. Each of these branches has one of the parents' names, and two branches with grandparents' names forking from it. Twigs or leaves with parents' siblings can also be added. The quilter can decide how many sets of branches to include.

On both quilt designs, colors and background patterns can be meaningful to the family represented, or designed to fit a specific decor. Family tree quilts can be used on a bed or hung on a wall.

- Family Tree Photo Display - There are several ways to create a family tree photo display. One way is to arrange photos on a wall. Family portraits, frames that hold multiple photographs, and groupings of photographs are three of the most common ways to display photos on a wall. With a wall display, interesting documents and family artifacts can be put in frames or shadow boxes with the photographs to create an interesting focal point and an easy way to learn family history.

Another way to create a family tree photo display is with a tree sculpture. On each branch of the tree hang small, important family photos in decorative frames. This display can be kept on an end table, or used as a centerpiece at family dinners. Wherever displayed, it is likely to spark questions and conversations about family history.Small, metal, branched trees are often available for hanging decorations at Easter and Halloween. These trees are ideal, though any similar type of display stand will work.

- Family Tree Picture - A family tree can be turned into a work of art to hang on the wall. Designing a cross-stitch, bunca, or needlepoint picture can personalize a wall-hanging. Paintings, pen-and-ink drawings, and charcoal sketches can also be created to show a family tree. With any of these, personal touches that represent family members or events can be added to make these family tree pictures even more meaningful.

**Family History**

- Family History Scrapbook - A family history scrapbook is a great way to create a display of a family's history. This project can be as simple or complex as the person creating it wants it to be. The first thing to do when creating a family history scrapbook is to find an album in which to display the relevant history. Photo and scrapbook albums are ideal for this project. These can be purchased at most arts and crafts store, or at specialty scrapbooking shops. Next, figure out the basic layout. Will the album start with the older branches of the family and move to the newest, or vice versa? Will the album focus on one aspect of family history (e.g., weddings), or will it focus on all aspects of the family history? Finally, start putting pieces in the scrapbook. Family history scrapbooks are perfect for family trees, newspaper articles, photographs, tickets, announcements, and many other small pieces of a family's history.

- Family History Book - For someone who wants a more professional way to display his family history, a family history book may be the perfect answer. To create a family history book, anecdotes about family members and events must be written. Relationships between family members must be made clear through charts, family trees, or written explanation. Photographs and other images (tickets, announcements, birth certificates) that will be included must be scanned in to the computer, or accounted for in the layout so they can be attached once the pages are ready to be copied. The person creating the family history book can include any information he considers important. Depending on the length of the book, a table of contents and/or an index may be necessary. Finally, a cover must be designed. For those who do not feel comfortable writing, editing, and/or designing, help in each of these areas is available through the yellow pages.

After formatting all the content, the family history book is ready to be physically created. The easiest way to do this is to take the pages or disk to a copy center and have it bound. Many copy centers offer multiple options for binding, and can help the book's creator choose the most appropriate style. A copy center can make as many copies of the book as the genealogist wants, which means the family history book can make a wonderful gift to all members of the family.

- Family History Website - A website is one of the most popular ways to display family history. Through a website, the family history can be quickly and easily shared with all family members who have access to a computer (available at most public libraries). A website can include as much or as little information as the person creating it wishes to share, and can include text, photographs, charts, graphics, and links to family members home pages. It can also include a link to the creator's e-mail so any relevant genealogical information uncovered by someone else can be quickly shared. The genealogist should not include any information she does not want strangers to find, as the website will be accessible to anyone searching the internet.

Thanks to many genealogy software programs, it is not necessary for someone to be proficient in website building in order to create a family history website. There are also many web designers listed in the yellow pages for those who want a more personal look. It is recommended that someone trying to decide upon a design for a family history website look at other, similar sites first.

**Family Genealogy**

- Genealogical Timeline - A genealogical timeline will end up looking much like the timelines displayed in history museums. The person creating the time line will choose which ancestor will begin the timeline, and will follow that ancestor with his direct descendents, leading to the current family members. Family photographs, anecdotes, and events should be added, as should small branches for important family members and events not on the direct line. More than just family history should be included in a genealogical timeline. Important historical events should be included, as well. This will provide a context for understanding the ways in which history shaped the family presented.

- Genealogical Book of Records - A genealogical book of records is similar to the family history book, but much more information intensive. In the genealogical book of records, every family member for whom any information has been found will be included. Details of the information found, including where the records are kept and what research methods were used, may be added. Short anecdotes and small pictures may also be included. For this project, an index is necessary and a table of contents is highly recommended. A genealogical book of records is generally created as a tool for other researchers, not just for the family line represented. Editors and writers can be found through the yellow pages.

- Genealogical Website - A genealogical website will include all of the information that would be in a genealogical book of records, and should use links to relevant information sources (e.g., ship manifests) to make it easy for someone else to verify the information presented. Unlike the book of records, however, a genealogical website has the space to present much more information. Many more photographs and anecdotes can be included, making the website something useful for both formal genealogical researchers and for family member just wanting to know about life when Great-Grandma was growing up. Genealogy software or a website designer may make this project easier.

Because there are so many ways to display a family's genealogy, and so many reasons for doing so, understanding the options before getting started is very important. Once someone knows what type of display he wants, and why, he can create something that will be appreciated for generations to come.

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