Last Minute Holiday Gifts without Joining the Crowds, by Paula Stuart-Warren, CG

gifts.jpgChristmas is too few days away. Is the tree decorated? Baking done? Presents wrapped? Still can’t find anything for your father or grandaunt Susie? Your budget is probably like that of so many others this holiday season. Maybe your nephew or children have asked what you want for Christmas. Many things related to family history can truly be last minute and budget-conscious gifts.

You First
The family historian just doesn’t pay enough attention to the family historian! Is there a conference such as the National Genealogical Society or Federation of Genealogical Societies that you want to attend this year? Maybe it is one of the week-long institutes including the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy or the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. Is your or some other subscription about to expire? Or perhaps you have decided that 2009 is the year you want to begin your subscription. 

Send your relatives the suggestion of a check to help cover your subscription, membership, conference registration, or hotel costs. Maybe a relative would give you some airline miles or redeem hotel points for coupons for you to use in 2009. Going to Salt Lake City? Several national chain restaurants are within a few blocks of the Family History Library. A gift card for one of these might be a great idea for you.

For the Family Members Who Don’t Need Anything
This year you said you would have early ideas for those “difficult to buy for” family members. Like you, they don’t want or need more knick-knacks. Today you are still thinking about possible gift ideas. How about some last-minute genealogy?

Print out a stack of census records that relate to parts of the family. Look for obituaries that might be in the newspapers on Ancestry. Check for family members in county histories, city directories, or locate the record of a birth, death, passport application, or passenger arrival. Add notes to records in the margins that explain what the record shows. Purchase a big white envelope and put a big red or green bow on it after putting the record copies inside. Not only will the recipient begin reading, but will soon be surrounded by others eager to see and read the gift.

Military Buff in the Family?
What about that Revolutionary War, War of 1812, or Civil War pension and service record in your files? Copy it for the military buff in your family. A military history on Ancestry or Google Books that covers a family member’s unit can be printed out. Do you have some old medals that belonged to a common great-grandfather? Imagine the look on cousin John’s face when he opens the gift of those medals accompanied by military records for that great-grandfather.

Other Items in Your Home
Pull out the old family albums, scan selected photos, and transfer them to CDs to give to the family. Look through your tool boxes, china cabinet, or jewelry box. Are there any ancestral pieces in there that might be given as gifts to family members who would appreciate them? Be sure to include the story of how it came to be in your possession. If you have a picture of the original owner using or wearing the item, that would be a wonderful addition to the gift.

Important Dates
Many websites, including MyCanvas at Ancestry, allow creation of calendars, as do some word processors. I like to create monthly calendars. Current family birthdays, anniversaries, and other events can be placed in the upper portion of each day’s square. The bottom can be reserved for historical family dates. The possibilities are endless.

  • The birth day of your third great-grandfather.
  • Great-grandma and great-grandpa’s wedding date and year. 
  • The year the gift recipient graduated from high school or college. 
  • The date the family farm was purchased.
  • When work started on an addition to the family home. 

My Own Father
I am giving my father printouts of city directory listings for his ancestors and their siblings and am preparing a small album (archival quality, of course) of photos taken of his ancestors and his descendants. I think he will love the photograph of his father in the railroad shops. He hasn’t seen the pension record of the grand-uncle after whom he was named. I will also give him a certificate good for many days of sitting at his dining room table with me, looking at other images on Earlier this year, I received some railroad records for two of his other grand-uncles. I think he will be touched by the big envelope he will receive.
Giving to Fellow Readers
As you read this column, I am willing to bet that some of you had other ideas pop into your mind or remembered a gift you gave to a relative. Please add them to the Comments section so that others can gain from your neat ideas.

Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, a resident of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in Minnesota, is a professional genealogist, consultant, writer, and lecturer and is frequently on the road. She coordinates the American Records Course at the annual Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. She writes for several periodicals including Ancestry magazine. Comments to her columns will reach her at or via her blog She regrets that her workload makes it impossible to answer individual inquiries. From time to time, comments from readers may be quoted in her writings. Your name will not be used unless you give permission in your e-mail, but your place of residence might be listed (i.e. Rutland, Vermont).
Appearances by Paula Stuart-Warren, CG
(I enjoy meeting fellow genealogists at these events so please introduce yourself as an Ancestry Weekly Journal and 24/7 Family History Circle reader. Many of you do take me up on this suggestion!)
— January 12-16, 2009 Salt Lake City, Utah
Utah Genealogical Association
Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy
Choose from several week-long courses

— March 28, 2009 Kalamazoo, Michigan
Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society Spring Conference

2 thoughts on “Last Minute Holiday Gifts without Joining the Crowds, by Paula Stuart-Warren, CG

  1. I am giving our children and grandchildren a framed, certified parchment copy of their great and great-great grandfather’s Homestead certificate from 1907. These can be ordered from the Bureau of Land Management for only $1.00. I purchased document frames from a craft store at 40 and 50% off, so this makes a very economical gift. And hopefully a real conversational piece for their home.

  2. I’m ordering copies of “Map My Ancestors” for my Genealogy buddies. At less than $20 (whatever 10 british pounds is at today’s exchange rate) it is a great idea and at the moment is something that most Genealogists don’t yet have!

    It is downloadable from and they have a voucher to print out so you have something you can actually give them on the day.

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