Three Easy Tips to Attract More Family Members to the Passion We Call Genealogy
One of the most frequently genealogy questions I get asked, after being asked to explain the concept of once, twice, etc. removed, is this: “How do I get more family members interested in my genealogy work?”
The following three tips are ones that I have found to be the easy and very effective in drawing interested family members deeper into your genealogy and also in developing interest in family members who weren’t interested before.
So what is this tip? It is simply this: Make your genealogy useful!
We all know the typical method for presenting your genealogy. All too often we find ourselves, when asked about our genealogy work and family history, explaining it in terms of a typical family tree. We tend to begin with ourselves or the person we are talking to and being moving back in time. Soon we are talking great, great, greats, cousins removed, and while we might be enjoying ourselves tremendously, I bet you a dollar to a donut we have either lost that spark of interest expressed by the questioner, or worse, they have decided that our hobby must be complex, dull, and dry.
So my suggestion is that we begin to present our findings and information in more useful (to the average non-genealogy crazed individual) formats. While you and I may fully understand and enjoy looking at information in the traditional GEDCOM format, this format is not what is going to attract and excite most ‘normal’ folks. What will attract them is if the information we gather from our years of work is interesting, fun, and useful. The following are a few ways you might consider making your genealogy output more interesting, fun, and useful to a wide-ranging audience.
• Map your major family cemeteries. If your family is at all like mine, there are a few key cemeteries and churchyards that are the final resting place for a significant number of ancestors. They may be close by or they may be some distance away, but we know them and we know them well. What I have undertaken with these key locations is to create master maps for each of these cemeteries. On these maps I plot the approximate location of each notable family grave and then I provide an accompanying Excel spreadsheet of those family members who rest there. These spreadsheets include name, maiden name, section, lot, tier, grave, etc. and a notation as to how they fit into the family tree. In one cemetery we have well over 150 family members, in another we have over 40, and in several others we have a dozen or so. My next step is then to make certain that family members know of the availability of these maps. I have found at time they might simply be interested in seeing the information or better yet if they ever were going to be paying a visit this will help them immensely. This kind of family communication is easily accomplished electronically as we keep our family tree on the MyHeritage.com family social network. We post these maps and Excel spreadsheets on the site and they are there for anyone who wants them. This is especially important as we are finding more and more cemeteries that have no staff onsite to help answer questions, provide maps, directions, etc.
• Create your own Onward To Our Past® ‘Baby’s First Genealogy Book. We all know about baby books. Those wonderful (unless you were the last baby as I was and Mom had just run out of gas by the time I came around) books that include all sorts of items and notes that Moms put together. How about easing the burden on Mom and putting together ‘Baby’s First Genealogy Book’? They are easy and fun, provide a lovely keepsake, and best of all provide a nice focus on the importance of family and extended family for the new arrival.
• Play a genealogy game at every family gathering. I have written many times about the various games I use to get family involved in (even if they don’t realize it) genealogy and family history. I keep them simple and I keep them short, but without fail they provide fun, laughter, lots of stories, memory sharing, and for the family historian a wealth of great information to add to the family tree to make it sparkle and really come alive.
Easy, fun, and useful. Still focused on family history and our genealogy needs, but with a twist to make sure what we are doing is in a more user-friendly, useful form.
As they used to say about ‘Mikey’ in those old TV advertisements: “Try it, you’ll like it”!