Gifts inspired by family history are guaranteed to make the moms in your life feel special. That’s why one researcher at AncestryProGenealogists has turned family history-themed gifts into a tradition.
“My parents can buy anything they want, but when I take the time to do something that’s personal to them, that’s what means the most,” said Julie Merrill, an associate genealogist who specializes in both Scandinavian and Southern U.S. research. “It has brought us closer together and allowed me to show my parents how much I love them.”
Although not everyone in Julie’s family shares her passion for genealogy, she has found creative ways to teach her relatives more about their ancestors and cultural traditions. She recently shared a few of her favorite projects that could easily be personalized.
One year Julie gave her father-in-law the gift of sharing his life story with his children. She filled a Mason jar with questions about his life that were written on strips of paper. During their weekly visit, she would pull out a couple of questions and record his answers in a notebook. Eventually she had enough stories to create a book about his life for her husband and his siblings.
“He was quiet, and most of us didn’t know much about him,” Julie said. “But he was a Marine and had served in two wars; he was wounded; and he had a lot of great stories that his children had never heard before.”
Smell has a way of bringing back memories, and old family recipes are a wonderful way to evoke family stories. Julie created a recipe book for her family, and each recipe featured a brief description of what their family loved about that dish. She also made a calendar for her husband’s family that featured a different family recipe each month. Many genealogy programs allow you to make calendars that include birthdays of all the relatives in your tree, so this type of project doesn’t necessarily require skills beyond those you already have.
“Every single one of my husband’s siblings keeps that calendar with their recipe books,” Julie said. “They are spread out across the country, and this brings them all together remembering meals their mom would make. It helps keep those memories alive of when they were together.”
What mom gets tired of hearing how special she is to her children and grandchildren? Julie has seven siblings, and one year she and her sister asked each of their siblings to write down their most treasured memory of their mother. They bound the memories into a book that her mother can cherish for the rest of her life.
“It was cool, because almost all the kids mentioned the same thing,” Julie said. “Her number-one priority was her kids. We always knew she loved us, no matter what. It was meaningful to my mom, because she was validated. She knew that what she did was important, that it mattered, and she did a good job. Raising eight kids is not easy!”
No matter what type of project you choose, planning ahead will ensure that your best ideas and intentions become reality. Pick a project that you could do in a week or two using a few minutes of your time here and there. Or, ask your mom what would be most meaningful to her and tackle it together. Sometimes the gift of your time and attention is the best way to make your mom feel loved.
Has family history inspired any gifts you’ve given to loved ones?