We like to give home-made presents in our family each year for Christmas, so have collected quite a few ideas for DIY gifts over past years. One idea that pops up regularly in different forms, is a family calendar. I'll do another post sometime, showing some of our other family calendar versions, but this particular one has a Family History theme.
Although a calendar about your genealogy can take a while to put together, once it's completed it can be printed off for as many people as you think would like to receive it. I also think it's a wonderful family resource and keepsake, and the information quite fascinating when it's your family being written about.
I'm posting about this now, rather than closer to Christmas because you may want to get a head start on collecting and inputting the information you will need, if this idea appeals to you.
This is the front cover of the calendar. I constructed each of the calendar pages on the computer using Publisher, then printed them out double-sided (a family history page on the top and a calendar month page below), on A4 paper, using our home printer. I've used protective clear plastic covers on the front and back, then bound all the pages into booklet form using our home binder. (You could get all of that done at Office-works if you prefer.) Although it isn't shown on these pages, we finished off each calendar by punching a hole through the top centre of each page to allow it to hang from a hook.
You'll find a selection of free, downloadable calendar templates on the net that you can adjust for your calendar months. Or compose your own calendar grid using Publisher or another program. Although I haven't shown any of them, each facing page of these pictured pages was a grid of that calendar month, with birthdays, anniversaries, public holidays, etc, added in.
The facing page for January was this seven-generation chart above: Neil and me, our children and grandchildren, our parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents and our great-great-grand-parents. (Sorry about the terrible quality, but I've removed the information about living persons and fuzzied up the page for privacy.) Where we had photos of our ancestors I have included them, along with the place and date of birth for each. Perhaps you won't have as much information about your family history as this, but could put in whatever you do have. It's a wonderful resource to have all this important information compiled on one page. Although you can't see it here, I also gave each ancestor on the chart their own number (eg our children were all number 1, Neil was number 2, I was number 3, his father was number 4, etc.), which helped to match the people on the chart with the people being written about in the calendar.
(You can click on each individual page to see it more clearly.)
I played around a bit before I finally determined upon a format for the family history pages. There were 13 pages to do altogether, because I had calendar pages for January to December, plus January for the following year. The seven-generation chart occupied one of those pages, leaving me with twelve facing pages still to fill.
Should I just highlight 12 individuals? Give half a page each to a chosen individual? You can see from the generation chart that between us, my husband and I have (like everyone has :), 4 parents, 8 grand-parents, 16 g-grand-parents, and 32 g-g-grand-parents: 50 individuals altogether, not counting Neil and me. Of course, we had a lot more information on some of these ancestors than we did on others. I could have written a small book on some individuals, but had barely a few lines of data about others.
As I read through the histories of the ancestors I did have some information for, it seemed to me that I was able to pick out distinguishing characteristics for many of the individuals. Eventually I decided that nine of the pages would highlight the characteristics of some of our ancestor couples: each set of our parents; all four sets of our grand-parents; and three sets of g-grand-parents. The remaining three pages were devoted to getting in as much information about our other ancestors as possible under the three headings: 'First Fleet and Early Pioneers to Australia'; 'House of Bedwell - Adventurers and Explorers'; and 'Academics, Artists, Writers and Musicians'.
As a finishing touch I included a list of all the contact details - phone, email and addresses - for all of our (living) family on the inside back cover. Below is a copy of the calendar's back cover.
It was a lot of work putting this together, but also incredibly interesting and satisfying! Everyone loved their present, and hopefully we all knew more about our family history by the end of the year :)
How to search out your family history -
If you would like to search out your family history, you can start as easily as by Googling an ancestor, including all of the information you already have for them. Your search will most likely take you to one of the genealogy sites such as ancestry.com, where you can search further. FamilySearch is another site that will help you get started.
You will need to verify that you have discovered someone who is actually in your line, by matching as many details as possible - such as the names of spouse and children, before you know for sure it is them. As you follow the threads you will start to become conversant with various census findings, military records, etc. - and to be honest, you'll probably find yourself getting completely hooked!
One of the most wonderful things about studying out your ancestors is to find that others in your line have very likely already begun, and you can often find the information they have compiled available on the net. This means that you will sometimes find many generations of information all from one name. It's like the best game of treasure hunting you can imagine! You can't know how exciting it is to track down your ancestors until you have done it!
I know this post began as a home-made Christmas present idea - and seems to have morphed into a post about genealogy instead! But enthusiasm for genealogy is a side effect of doing your family history that you should expect to encounter too!
So, where do you come from? :)