Highway to the Holidays

thanksgiving dinner.jpgby Maureen Taylor 

Halloween is gone. Poof. Just like that the stores are full of winter decorations–trees, menorahs, and the ever present Santa. Everything happens so quickly at this time of year it’s like being in the high speed lane of the local interstate. It is possible to survive the holiday season, with sanity intact, by planning ahead and developing a sense of humor. Unexpected visits by relatives and cranky cousins add to your stress levels, but try to offset the tension with a little family history. Don’t put your charts and notes away for the holidays. Take them out and show them off. This is a great time of year to be mindful of family history.

Kitchen Help
If you’re overwhelmed by relatives wanting to know “What’s for dinner?” and “When will it be ready?” then redirect their attention. Keep them busy. Along with a platter of appetizers serve them a helping of family history. Pick out your family photo mysteries and put copies in a scrapbook with a blank facing page for comments. Leave a pen attached to the book and ask for each person to write something about the picture such as the details they see or who it might be. Make sure they sign their name beside their remarks. They might see something you’ve overlooked. That cantankerous relative could turn into your personal genealogical gift-giver when he identifies a photo of your second great-grandfather.

Drag Out the Pictures
In addition, suggest relatives bring their own mystery photos in a similar scrapbook. Leave the originals at home. This activity is for copies only. You wouldn’t want a dot of gravy in the middle of a priceless heirloom. Don’t forget to take a few minutes to look over these goodies. You might discover some new information.

Display the Family
Oversized nineteenth-century pedigree charts often came equipped with a bar across the top so the owner could show off their lineage by putting it on display. If you’re surrounded by relatives this year, purchase an oversized chart, fill it in (as much as possible) and pin it up in a prominent spot. Family members are sure to gather ‘round it talking about the folks you’ve mentioned.

Capture the Moment
Get the teenager in your house (or another interested family member) to tape record the stories of childhood escapades, memories of favorite foods, and past holidays. These sounds will mix together for a piece of oral memorabilia worth keeping.

These four activities will keep those restless relatives busy until dinner’s served leaving you with some quiet time in the kitchen. It’s a long holiday season, so keep the chart, scrapbook, and camera handy for the next gathering. You’re sure to generate some genealogical cheer.

By the way, the comment section of this blog is for you. Leave behind your ideas for integrating genealogy into the holidays. It’s your chance to share your activities with others. Let’s start a discussion.

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When Maureen Taylor isn’t cooking for a crowd she’s writing about family history and photography. Visit her on the web at www.photodetective.com.

6 thoughts on “Highway to the Holidays

  1. I went to my dad’s sixtieth birthday party a few years ago and a second cousin of mine was there and she had copies of a genealogy that she had done of our family. I had only gotten so far in my own research having my ancestors up to my great grandfather and earlier generations that reached back to the 1600’s. I did not have the info that connected the earlier generations to my great grandfather’s generation until I saw that cousin and she gave me a copy of the research that she had done that fillef in the gap for me!
    That same day I had brought a scrapbook that contained some old family photos and asked my dad and uncles and my cousin if they knew who the people were in the pictures. They helped me identify a few of them.
    I highly recommend asking questions about family history during the holidays or on bithday parties. Any family celebration for that matter. You never know what info you will find from your family members!

  2. Usually my family has absolutely no interest in genealogy. However, at our last family gathering I was able to generate some interest. I’ve been collecting family “mugshots” (pictures of peoples’ faces) and putting them into my genealogy program. For this family gathering I used the program to print out a 7- or 8-generation family tree that included a mugshot for each person for whom I’d been able to a picture. My uncle posted it in a conspicuous place and it generated a lot of interest and conversation. Everyone looked over the chart and commented on it. There were frequently groups of people at the chart discussing relatives and telling stories that came to mind when they saw a person’s picture. Having the pictures on the chart was the key. That made it a lot more interesting to everyone, including those who hate the mention of genealogy. A couple of older relatives, who ended up really enjoying telling family stories, said they wouldn’t have even bothered to look at the chart if it had been just a bunch of names and dates. The kids were especially thrilled to see their faces on the chart.

  3. I have been sorting thru old photos ..None of which I have a clue so I will send them to the Mystery pages of the county where my ancestors lived in hope that someone of the families may see them and send me a message. None of my uncles knew who they were.
    I found your article of great interest and will hrrry to get my photos out and copied for sharing with my siblings. I may try the guess who first as they haven’t shown any interest in the family tree so perhaps that idea you generated will help me as well get input from them. Have some of my brother as a boy and my sister too. They haven’t seen them ..taken at school when they were young…by another classmate whom shared with me.
    My father in law sure could do me a favor with the history of his family. I dare say that his dementia is gone when he talks of the old times. You spurred the idea to take a recorder along to get it all down.
    I did have someone record a birthday party for my father-in-law at his 80th birthday. I am so glad because it really will be precious to review later on.
    Perhaps that may be something I should do with my own camera.
    the kind you roll and scan everyone in the room for later viewing. Those old time reels sure can’t be replaced.
    thanks for such an enlightening article. I plan to use the tips this Thanksgiving.

  4. Attempts to foster interest of history and pictures of
    ancestors seems to have failed almost completely. I did get
    a rise at one time by printing out an 8 1/2 by 11 colored
    picture of a present day relative with his wife on an excursion
    we had together on a mountain top. Describing them and their
    birthdates and names of their own family caused a stir. A
    comment came, “I’ve gotta get to the Allen County Public
    Library downtown and look for……….”. (they are residents
    of Fort Wayne, IN). That is as far as the stirring up went,
    but it was a bit of an arrow in the heart, I think. I guess
    they just wanted to see their faces and names in print.


  5. They onward paddled conversations, and when he tried to hair extension by jessica simpson her at her door, she said to him: I have a fox of forcibly concentrating a overlap on the unclaimed date, although this clash has recieved inevitably brilliant that I am summarily seconded to jack my rule.

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