by Stephanie Pitcher Fishman | Apr 16, 2013
Genealogists love to share their research. Parents and grandparents love to share their children's works of art (even if that child is 48 and that work of art is a pedigree chart!) Sometimes the same old chart with the same old information just won't cut it. Are you looking for a new way to bring energy to your family history displays for yourself and others? Step outside the box and explore ways to share your knowledge through a non-traditional family tree.
When most people think of displaying their family history, we picture a traditional pedigree chart. The only thing that may set it apart from another is the paper, font style, and frame. Generally speaking, the names and generations that are included remain similar to any other. Your research determines how many of these generations are there, but there they will be. These charts and trees are all beautiful, and a family historian should be proud to display them.
Eye-catching display pieces share something that others don't, so flip your family tree on its head! Begin with your ancestors as the roots of your family and follow them up through the branches of your family as time expands your relatives. Instead of including only the usual suspects, consider including cousins, aunts, and uncles. We are used to seeing family charts that begin with one individual and move backwards in time. A unique family picture can be formed by starting at a different point of origin and including all lines, even collateral. Though this may work best with smaller families, it can still create an impressive picture where all positions are represented in a way that shows a family how it truly developed.
In this tree, my parents are the center "trunk." It goes up to the top to my grandparents, with my uncles and their families down each side. Definitely not traditional!
Many genealogists have a specific area of research or a certain record set that interests them. In your "out of the box" thinking, develop project ideas that will help highlight these favorite areas. Consider the following:
As genealogists, we are used to programs, reports, and charts that follow the paternal lines through the generations. Consider highlighting the ladies in your family by instead following your maternal lines. This research may be a little harder to come by as you discover maiden name after married, but in the end it will create a family tree that focuses on often ignored ancestors. It can also give you a chance to highlight their unique gifts. Just as we looked at typically male-dominated traits such as military, identify the aspects of your female ancestors' daily lives that you'd like to remember.
You can find more ideas for remembering the ladies in the article "Remembering Grandma: Sharing Stories of Your Female Ancestors."
Does your family have a heritage of faith? In one of my family lines, we have one strong, repeating thread: a legacy of pastors and pastor's wives. I've been lucky enough to research within the stacks of our denomination's archives which opened up a wonderful, rich mountain of information about my ancestors' involvement in their respective churches. If you have a similar legacy, consider sharing it through a unique family tree by recording each ancestor that was a pastor, lay leader, or involved member of their church.
Did your family travel the trails or immigrate from the Old Country? Decorative family trees can share some of the trials and triumphs of our ancestors by highlighting their travels. Consider showing the migration path that each ancestor took by integrating a map into your pedigree chart. Overlay photos at starting and ending points on the map. Or, include notes along the path showing where they stopped for marriage, illness, or burial along the way.
Does your family have the team spirit? Many families have a legacy of attending the same colleges or universities. A fun way to share this aspect of your family history is to integrate school photographs that highlight each generation's attendance and contribution to an educational institution. If multiple generations didn't attend the same school, consider sharing photos that have a common thread such as high school graduations or team sports. It will represent their personality as much as the time period in your pedigree.
A non-traditional family tree is a great project for kids. They can strengthen their interview and research skills while discovering what makes their family unique. Here are a few ideas for involving even the smallest member of your tree:
Your family's history is unlike any other. Why shouldn't the way you display it be just as original as the stories contained among the generations of your family? The purpose of sharing non-traditional trees is to show the individual personalities that came together to create your unique heritage. No matter how you choose to share your family history with others, be sure to make it your own. By integrating your personality into your project you'll find a winning combination that will create a well-loved family heirloom. You just might interest others in their family history in the process!
Pinterest (a great source of inspiration for any project)
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