Family History During the Holidays

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When I’m in a bad mood, I imagine starting a petition to rename the month of December either "Hectic" or "Frantic". On the other hand, when my mood is good, "Family" or "Cookies" seem like appropriate choices. Whether you appreciate the positive aspects of this busy month or fret over the negative, one of the last things you need is to begin a new Family History project on your own.

However, “doing” family history doesn’t always require staring at census records on your computer screen. If you change your focus and think of it as an opportunity to keep guests entertained or even a way to get someone else to collect data – then this is the perfect time of year.

Here are a handful of ideas for family activities on the theme of genealogy to inspire you:

  • Ask someone to play photographer. You can sweeten the task by offering the photographer a deal – for example, if he/she takes pictures,  he doesn't have to help clear the table.  All kinds of pictures can be taken: couples, family groups, cousins, children getting into mischief, cooks in the kitchen, presents under the tree, cars in the driveway. These photos can all be candid; nobody needs to line up on the stairs for a formal family photo.
  • Print out blank family group sheets and pedigree charts. Ask your guests to fill them in before dinner. Think of it as an ice-breaker exercise as everyone will start talking about their relatives and their memories of them. Be sure to ask everyone to sign and date the back of their sheet. If you have a printer that also copies, you can make copies for your guests.
  • At the dinner table ask your guests to share a favorite holiday memory, their earliest recollection, their favorite gift, or their most disastrous cooking experience. If you have a smart phone, this session could be easily recorded, but if it would ruin the moment don’t worry about it, sometimes sharing family stories is simply about bonding with people in the present.
  • If you have old family photos with unidentified people in them, this is the time of year to get them out and ask Aunt Sally or Uncle Joe, “Who is this?”

Each of these activities has the benefit of furthering your family history project and entertaining your guests. A frantic genealogist happily eating cookies could hardly ask for anything more.

Happy Holidays from

by Amanda Epperson © 2014,, All rights reserved

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December 20, 2014
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