Posted by Ancestry Team on December 9, 2008 in Website

I’ve always had a hard time buying presents for my dad. Apparently I’m not alone, because last night one of my sisters called me to beg for ideas. “Yeah, good luck with that,” I said, explaining that for once I had a great gift in mind for Dad: a framed family history poster that he could display in his office. I had already made the poster in MyCanvas and had just stopped at Target to pick up a 20×16 inch poster frame.

Truth be told, I had actually created five different poster projects because I kept coming up with new ideas. Most of them only took me about half an hour, and working on them was a lot more fun than anything else on my to-do list. So all I have to do now is decide which poster I want to order for my dad for Christmas.

My dad was especially close to his paternal grandparents because he grew up on their farm in Idaho. Although he has since lived in several big cities, he still has that peculiar snobbery that farm people have toward city folks and lazy children — that is, anyone who hasn’t had the experience of getting up at 4 a.m. to hoe beets. When my grandparents got married, they just built a house right there on the farm, and so my dad and his sister grew up in close proximity to their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. My first poster project was a photo collage of all of those relatives.

Gideon & Carrie poster
Click to enlarge image

Then I came across a World War I draft card with my great-grandpa’s signature, and I thought it might be interesting to do a collage focused on him. He was a very influential person in my dad’s life. When I was growing up, anytime a curse word escaped my dad’s lips — usually during a home improvement project — he would quote Great-Grandpa Condie: “The Lord don’t hold it agin’ ya if ya swear at critters.” There were no critters at our house, so I didn’t quite see how this maxim applied, but I came to respect this departed ancestor as a source of salty wisdom.

In my second poster, notice how I highlighted Great-Grandpa’s signature on the draft card:

 Gideon Condie poster
Click to enlarge image

At present our selection of poster backgrounds is rather skimpy, so it helps to be a little bit creative. You are probably wondering why we don’t just resize all the book backgrounds and make them available for posters. Apparently that would be quite an involved process, and I have no idea if or when it might happen.

As a workaround, I took a screen shot of a book background (“Farm Life”) and uploaded it into MyCanvas as an image. Then I right-clicked on the thumbnail version (under My Photos) and clicked “Use as background” to apply it to my poster. Because my 20×16 inch poster is larger than the page this background was designed for, I got the yellow caution sign telling me that the resolution was below the recommended threshold. In this case I wasn’t concerned about the resolution — in fact, I want the background to print in soft focus so that it doesn’t compete with the photos — so I just ignored the warning.

Next I tried making a family tree poster. I created a four-generation combination tree starting with my grandparents. My dad and his siblings appear at the bottom of the page. I had photos for everyone in the first three generations, but I was missing photos for some of my dad’s great-grandparents. Instead of leaving some of the photo spots blank, I decided to use flags to show each great-grandparent’s country of origin.

Spencer & Josie Family Tree
Click to enlarge image

Seeing the photos of my dad’s grandparents in the family tree made me think that maybe he’d rather have a collage poster that included both sets of grandparents instead of just the one set. So I went back to the drawing board and created two versions of a family tree comprised of just photos — no names or dates.

Photo Family Tree 1
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Photo Family Tree 2
Click to enlarge image

You can see that both of these posters are really simple. I changed the photos from black-and-white to sepia, added drop-shadows and used masks to change the photos’ shapes. As a finishing touch, I added a few embellishments. But I didn’t use any fancy frames or spend hours combining different design elements. My Idaho ancestors were simple folks who didn’t like to make a big fuss about things.

I hope I’ve convinced you that you don’t have to feel bad if you didn’t finish your family history book in time for the holidays because there’s still time to make a meaningful gift. Collage posters can be a great way to share your family history. They’re also a good way to share recent family memories. Here’s a more contemporary poster that I made just for fun.

Baby Girl Collage Poster
Click to enlarge image

This one was super easy to make. I just used a solid background and grabbed a few embellishments from the Baby Girl Pink folder (under All Themes).

Remember that this Thursday, December 11, is the order deadline for holiday delivery with ground shipping. If you get in a crunch, you can still get your gifts in time if you order by December 16 and choose expedited shipping. Those deadlines apply to all products except premium books, which require additional processing time. The premium books are the ones with velvet, Japanese silk, genuine leather and nubuck covers. The bonded leather and padded leather books are not considered premium books, so you can still order those in time for Christmas.

I’d love to hear about your experiences sharing your MyCanvas creations with your family members over the holidays. If you have a success story — or a suggestion for improvement — please post a comment on this blog or send us a Feedback message. Have a safe and happy holiday season!


  1. Karen

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. I loved your idea of using county flags to fill in empty photo spaces for older generations.

  2. Pamela Brady

    Thank you so much for the ideas and inspiration! I love spending time researching my family, but have felt a bit overwhelmed at putting all the information into a meaningful project.
    You have given me some great ideas- I would love to see more of how other families have interperated their family history.

  3. Barbara

    I am having trouble with the Family recipe book. I did everything I was suppose to at I can’t find how to start a family history book from scratch.

  4. Stefanie Condie

    Barbara, what you need to do is make a photo book instead of a family history book. When you’re asked to select a theme, scroll down to the bottom of the list and click “No theme.” Then click the Backgrounds tab and go to the “Misc.” folder. You’ll see the three recipe backgrounds (left page, right page and cover) that were available in AncestryPress. By the way, some of the new photo book backgrounds work well for recipe books, so you don’t have to limit yourself to those three. One of our product managers, Jen Curry, just made a recipe book that turned out really cute. She used the “Blue Diamonds” background (in the “Patterns” folder) and several other backgrounds that have sort of a vintage feel.

  5. Sue

    I enjoyed reading about all your projects and decided to try a calendar. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m still not finished. One suggestion I’d like to make is to add some religious “embellishments”, such as a cross, a nativity, maybe a few quotes – things like that. I know not everyone is interested, but it would certainly help me personalize even better.

  6. Carol Surine

    My son and his wife are really into ancestry and I would like to buy them a subscription for Christmas. I can figure out how to buy my own subscription, but I don’t know how to get a gift subscription.

  7. Judy

    I just received the family pedigree poster I ordered and am extremely pleased with the final project!! It is a beautiful document.

    I used the 24″ X 36″ combination family pedigee chart with my father’s side of the family on the left and my mother’s side of the family on the right.

    Of course, I have a few “unknowns” on the tree, but this is a Christmas gift for my elderly parents this year, Dad age 83 and Mom age 78.

    Thank you so much for offering this wonderful project and the prompt delivery!


  8. I love these ideas and taking some time to research my family but at times I just can’t seem to get the information together neatly. Thanks

  9. Linda

    THANK YOU-so much for posting your projects. It has given me inspiration to do the same. I have lost so many family members but it you have shown me just how important it is to put in down in a form we all relate to [a PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS} Thank you

  10. Hi Ancestry Team,

    Once I could transfere all my data from Family Tree Maker to my website. This is no longer happening. Is this due to a retriction upon the amount of data transfereable.

    When is a patch or modified software, to enable FTM Family Books to operation as previously, due to be released?


    Douglas E Walker

  11. I created a family book in MyCanvas through Family Tree Maker. I have now created a family page in After all the time creating the book, I would like to access it from the myfamily site, but cannot figure out how to do this. Is there a way to access my book from myfamily website?

  12. peggyleaduncan

    Thanks so much for sharing about your poster project! I’m so excited. today in the mail I got my Family Calendar projects I created. I just loved the idea when I saw it right after Christmas, actually almost New years Eve. Anyways, I used the templates you provided & just love what is available.I added pictures of my family members & text for each month & created 3 calendars that I will cherish & I gave my parents one & will suprise my sister tonight.I know they are going to love them as much as I do.Family is so important & this will be a keepsake.Thank you for having such a great site & offering great projects.I can’t wait to start on my next one!God Bless!Happy hunting for your family roots!

  13. These are great, and the photos you used are in really good condition. I know there are lots of people out there with images that are not as well preserved as the images you used. Well done

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