How to Make Genealogy Come Alive For Your Bored Family

Make Family History Stories Interesting

Do your family members get bored and fall asleep when you try to tell them a family story? Genealogy can seem boring to an outsider, but there are some tried and proven ways to bring the magic of genealogy to your family's eyes.

By generating their interest, you are more likely to get their assistance and cooperation with genealogical facts they have around their house and their memory banks. Who knows, they may even get the genealogy bug and join you on those treks through cemeteries, courthouses and libraries.

Here are some ideas about how to make your family history more interesting to your friends and family members. You can use them individually or in combinations to get your family excited about their family history.

Does your family fall asleep when you try to talk about genealogy?  It can be boring to your family members.  Use these tips to keep them awake and interested in the family history.
Does your family fall asleep when you try to talk about genealogy? It can be boring to your family members. Use these tips to keep them awake and interested in the family history. | Source

Translate genealogy charts to words

Let's face it. We might be excited to see a family group sheet or an ancestor or descendant chart, but it takes time to figure out what it is telling us, and all those names and dates are likely to be boring and overwhelming.

Translating the genealogy facts into English sentences is preferable. For example, instead of saying:

1. John Smith (Peter) b. 12 Jan 1904 d. 14 Feb 1929 m. Hattie Jones 4 Dec 1928,

write this instead

John Smith, son of Peter Smith was born on January 12, 1904. He died at the young age of 29 in 1929 on February 14, leaving his new bride, Hattie Jones, alone and pregnant on Valentine's Day.

Write a Book

You could publish a photo book to make your genealogy come alive. Have the children draw pictures to illustrate it.

  • highlight of a particular ancestor
  • write the story of your immediate family
  • tribute to a family member
  • cookbook of family recipes
  • family quotes

Even though your family could do the math to figure out how old he was when he died, it is generally helpful to do the math for them. They may have been able to determine that February 14 was Valentine's Day, but you've had more time to look at the records and make more of the connections.

Your family will be better able to relate to the ancestor when you tell them about the type of life the ancestor lived. Tell them about his struggles and hardships, and how he overcame them. You could mention whether he was single or married, how many children or siblings he had, and other similar facts. Through detailed information about his life, they can start to develop a picture of his life and situation.

Instead of sharing simple facts about your ancestor, get the details and tell your family the whole story.  Make it come alive with imagery, historical context and artifacts.
Instead of sharing simple facts about your ancestor, get the details and tell your family the whole story. Make it come alive with imagery, historical context and artifacts. | Source

Tell a Story

One way to get our family's attention is to find one or two interesting ancestors and tell their story. Once they know they are related to someone famous, a criminal, or someone important in history, they are more likely to be interested. Even if your ancestor simply participated in a historical event, the ancestor will seem more real.

If you don't know very much about your ancestor, you can point out events in history, to make it easier for someone to place them in context with the facts that they know. For John Smith, you can point out that while some people were being massacred during the Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago, he died suddenly of alcohol poisoning. You could mention the economic, social, or political conditions of the country or town during the period of his life, such as the depression or prohibition. Make sure they can picture the setting of the story as well - the terrain, the isolation or crowding, the weather, the season, and the time of day.

Try Other Approaches

  • heirlooms
  • maps and treasure hunts
  • word search puzzles
  • crossword puzzles
  • photographs turned into jigsaw puzzles
  • challenges
  • reenactment of historical events
  • plays
  • songs and dances
  • scrapbooks
  • photo albums
  • Facebook page
  • Family history Blog

You can also get your family's interest by telling them what the traits they share with their ancestor. Maybe they inherited his eyes or his dimples. If they can relate to him as a person, they will be more interested in him.

The story doesn't even have to be about an ancestor. You could tell your own story, or a sibling, an aunt, or a historical figure.

Whichever story you tell, make sure you tell the story with descriptive words and imagery to recreate the experience, so the audience can get a real feel of what it was like to live during those times and what the main character went through. Having some visual aids to go with the story is also helpful.

Make the storytelling fun and dramatic. By telling the story with passion, imagery, and voice, you can help your family member really get to know their ancestor and feel a kinship with him.

Make genealogy come alive to your family members with the use of photographs, plat maps, marriage certificates and other types of proof that your ancestor actually existed.
Make genealogy come alive to your family members with the use of photographs, plat maps, marriage certificates and other types of proof that your ancestor actually existed. | Source

Make It Graphic

To make genealogy come alive to your family, it helps to show them some tangible evidence of his existence. When you share his photograph, or a quilt he used, he becomes much more real. If you don't have these items, there are other items you can use. Go through your genealogy files and find your ancestor's signature on a document, or a map of the property he owned. Show them photographs of the town he lived in, or his marriage certificate. A newspaper article about him makes him more important, even if he just visited the neighbors or attended a meeting.

All of these little artifacts make the ancestor more than just a story, it is real proof that he actually existed and walked the earth.

Multi-Media Suggestions

Let's face it, our family members are used to watching television, and sometimes a photograph isn't enough to spark the imagination. Creating a slideshow or a documentary of your ancestor or ancestors may help give your family members the encouragement they need.

Take the time to provide some background music, and show photographs and historical documents you have found in a more interesting and cohesive way. You may even be able to get a family member interested in genealogy if you can convince her to help you make the documentary or slideshow.

Take a Trip

Taking a trip through the ancestral homeland, especially if it is in a different country, may get your family's attention. They can walk on the same land he walked on, and get a feel for what the terrain was like. They can see some of the same buildings that he saw. I'm sure you will want to visit cemeteries, churches and libraries to get genealogical data, but be sure to spend some of the time during the things in the old country that your family enjoys.

Going on a genealogy cruise may also help interest your family member. When they see other people who share the same interest, they may have a different outlook on your crazy obsession, and see genealogy in a whole new light.

Interview The Family

When you interview a family member, you are probably doing it mainly to learn what she knows about the family. Your list of questions may include some for which she does not know the answer, it may spark her curiosity and may just intrigue her enough to want to find the answer to the mystery. Many people think of genealogy as a puzzle or treasure hunt, and you may pique her interest enough to stay awake during those times you want to talk about family history.

A family reunion is a great way to help people recognize their family connections.  They can tell their stories and relate back to their common ancestors.
A family reunion is a great way to help people recognize their family connections. They can tell their stories and relate back to their common ancestors. | Source

Family Reunion

A family reunion is a great way to reconnect with family members. It also serves as a bonus to help people find their commonalities and share their background. They will start reminiscing and tell you stories you may not have heard.

They may enjoy looking at a wall of historical family photos, a descendant or ancestor tree, or watching a slideshow that you created. Maybe you can have a display of family artifacts that will spark their interest. You may just find out that they have been bit by the genealogy bug after looking at your display

Make Genealogy Come Alive for Your Bored Family

There are many ways you can make genealogy more interesting for your family. Whether you ignite your family's attention by telling dramatic stories, interpreting those boring charts, making multimedia presentations with family heirlooms, slideshows and documentaries, taking trips to the family ancestral homeland, or having a family reunion, you'll be sure to reap the rewards of their interest. The next time you see a family member, they may be the ones asking the questions.

Some Examples of Genealogy Made Interesting

Ashbrook Family Tree by AdeleCosgroveBray with photographs and certificates as graphics.

Dick and Isadora II by Smireles is told in story form with photographs.

Articles like Indians Kicked Out of Uganda: Ugandan Asians by Millionaire Tips would provide a great background to a family history book, particularly if they incorporated the ancestors into the story.

© 2012 Shasta Matova

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Comments: "How to Make Genealogy Interesting to Your Family " 39 comments

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 22 months ago from USA Author

Thank you all for your visits and comments.

Craan, I recently made a photo book for a relative and it was a big hit! When I don't have photos, I look for other things, like maps of the area, a photo of the house, a plat map, a photo of an heirloom, even a drawing made by a child will work. I do hope you write down the story. Maybe your daughter and grandchildren will help you illustrate your story.

Tamara, that is a good idea. Having them enact a story will help them remember it and actually relive it!

Your Cousins, I am so glad you have been able to share your family knowledge at family reunions. Sounds like you know exactly how to keep genealogy interesting for the children and grandchildren!


Your Cousins profile image

Your Cousins 2 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Great suggestions! We've instituted a lot of these to keep our family reunions lively. We even staged a play one year, with our young relatives acting out our family history. It was a big hit and provided an entertaining way for the younger generation to learn their family story.


tamarawilhite profile image

tamarawilhite 2 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

Ask your children to help you turn events of the person's life into an exciting adventure story, like the young man coming to America at 12 to escape persecution, living with distant relatives, working his way up, having a family.


Craan profile image

Craan 2 years ago from Florida

Thanks @Millionaire Tips! My Great Uncle gave me the low down on my great, great, great grandfather. I wrote the story on a sheet of paper. Now, my challenge is to present this information to my daughter and grandchildren in an interesting way. Too bad, photography wasn't invented then, because this makes my job of telling my genealogy harder.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Thank you Smireles - your hub clearly shows how to honor your family members and record their history. I have found that my family members have started to develop more of an interest over time, as they learn about the interesting events and people in their ancestry, and I find different ways to present the information to them.


Smireles profile image

Smireles 3 years ago from Texas

Enjoyed reading your great tips for getting your family involved in your passion for family history. I know from personal experience that some family members could care less about their ancestors and forefathers. I was pleasantly surprised and humbled that you recommended my hub about my grandparents. Thank you very much. Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Taking the time to properly prepare the family stories so that the telling is interesting, descriptive, and suspenseful does help make the story easier to hear and more memorable. Thank you for your insight Tamara.


tamarawilhite profile image

tamarawilhite 3 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

I sometimes tell my children stories from genealogy about family members they never met, such as surviving a plane crash in WW2 and or picking up a wife on the way back home from the war, "Mom, I'm coming home! And set an extra place at the table, I'm bringing my wife" and my great grandmother putting the plate down and then thinking "who is this for again?" Then, at the end, say that this was my grandparent, their great-grandparent. It makes those abstract people seem alive.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Your Cousins. I find that people do eventually get interested, but at their own time and pace. I use these ideas to get them interested earlier, so I can share the excitement of my finds with them.


Your Cousins profile image

Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

It is so hard to get young people interested in hearing the family story. You're so right about the fact that using artifacts and media presentations can make it exciting, or at least interesting. Thanks for the information.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you for your visit and comment lrc7815. Listening to family stories does help us a great deal in searching for our roots.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you ishwaryaa22. I am glad you were able to hear family stories from your grandmother and mother and were able to stay interested without visual aids. Either the stories were very interesting, or you have good storytellers in your family! I hope you write them down when you get a chance. We can learn a lot from our ancestors.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Thank you so much ishwaryaa22. I am so glad you enjoyed the hub and really appreciate your compliments. It is so nice to connect with others who share my love of the old stories told by ancestors and who appreciate why we are searching for our roots. Looking forward to learning from and sharing with you.


ishwaryaa22 profile image

ishwaryaa22 4 years ago from Chennai, India

An extremely engaging hub! I enjoyed listening to family stories told by my grandmother and mother without the use of visual aids and all! Your points are valid and helpful and your other approaches are very handy. It is good for people to know more about their ancesters, their type of living decades ago, their achievements and struggles and all. A wonderful hub! Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up & Socially Shared


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

That's great lrc7815. I can just imagine 35+ years of dusty papers and files being thrown away because no one knows what to do with it and no one wants to store it. That was the situation I found myself in, and I decided that I'd better make the information accessible to my family members in formats that interests them enough to look at them and want to keep.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Love some of the creative ideas you have shared and am going to put them to work for my 35+ years of collected family history. Thanks !


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Pamela99. That's true, publishing the history will be helpful for future generations - much better than piles of notes everywhere. That's great that you have been able to meet distant cousins and get your family interested that far back in time. I guess we all want to know where we came from. Just the other day, a relative asked me if they had any Irish blood so they would know for St. Patrick's Day.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks kelleyward and ytsenoh. My family was extremely bored when I first started talking about genealogy, but eventually they came around. I do hope I can talk them into a family reunion - I hate that all our gatherings are at funerals.

Thanks onegreenparachute. I found that talking about more recent events - say 70s and 80s, especially around children who weren't born yet helps them realize that history keeps moving forward, and they want to tell the tales of their recent past. Then you can ask them the harder questions about other people and make them really dig their memory banks.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Nell, your book sounds wonderful. I am sure that there would be interest in it if it was published. Just be careful and thoroughly research the publisher before you sign any contracts.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

This is an excellent hub on getting your family interested in their ancestry and by publishing you are also securing the information for future generations. I have been doing research for at least 20 years and I have found many in my family are more interested now that I have traced many family members back hundreds of years. I have also had the opportunity to meet distant cousins that I didn't even know existed before I did the research. Great article. Up and awesome.


onegreenparachute profile image

onegreenparachute 4 years ago from Greenwood, B.C., Canada

These are great ideas Millionaire. Unfortunately my family will still insist they left the oven on and will suddenly have to go home. I'm pinning my hopes on the grandkids or maybe a distant cousin! Voted up.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

Okay, millionaire, I have to share that when I first read the title, I thought it was funny. I am a big supporter in the subject you're writing about, I just haven't visited mine research in awhile because I've been on HubPages...I think scrapbooks are a great way to display images and information. Your idea of a family reunion is an excellent way to bring everyone and the information together. It's always interesting to see how people are connected and preserving history is really important in families for future generations. Thumbs up.


kelleyward 4 years ago

I love the ideas you have here! I'm starting this now. Take care, Kelley


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, this is great and really got me wanting to start my family search. Your ideas really do make the ancestors come to life, and as you said it only takes one thing to make them 'real' again. I have an old diary from the beginning of the last century all the way through to 1950, with poems stories and visitors all contributing to the diary. its fascinating because my gran opened her house up to the Forces in the first and second world war, and I have all their poems and dreams in it too. I would like to get it published but I am not sure exactly how to go about it, see you got me interested now! lol! voted and shared! nell


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you Graham. I am glad you enjoyed it.


old albion profile image

old albion 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Millionaire Tips. Very interesting and informative hub. Very well presented. Thank you.

Graham.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks sholland10. I'm glad that you were able to share your passion for genealogy with your mother, and she with you. We have created many slideshows in our family - we have done one as a tribute to each family member on their birthday.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

MT, these are great ideas. I have always loved genealogy. My mother was an avid genealogist, and we would talk for hours. Her side of the family kept heirlooms, letters, journals, quilts, etc. She was always able to keep our attention with stories. Of course, you are correct, our youth today have more "interesting" visual effects. I love the slide show idea. Plus, it is a wonderful way to pass it along - we do become more interested as we get older.

Great Hub!! Votes and shared!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for your input alocsin. I haven't explored the multimedia presentations from my new software yet. I'll definitely have to look into it to see what it can do for me. Thanks for pointing that out.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I like these ideas since I'm the family historian. Fortunately, many of the genealogy packages today can make great multimedia presentations from the family tree. Voting this Up and Useful.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks billybuc and Hubert Williams. Genealogy research can be boring at times, especially for people who don't have as much of an interest, but the breakthroughs are quit exciting. By sharing our breakthroughs, hopefully we can show how exciting our obsession really can be.


Hubert Williams 4 years ago

These are great suggestions and ideas. Genealogical research can be boring most of the time and quite exciting much of the time, especially when a family connection has been established. Great article.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Really great ideas; if I were still teaching I would use this hub unashamedly in my classroom. Great job my friend.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks iamaudraleigh. I hope you can get your family excited about your and their genealogy.


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

You have given me a lot of good ideas in your hub! Thank you for writing it! The idea of a family history blog would be fascinating to create! Voted up!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks teaches12345, Judi Bee, and Trish_M. Genealogy is so fascinating and addictive, that I found it strange that my family wasn't interested. I think I have managed to get most of my family members on board though. I hadn't thought of a Facebook page. Good idea, Judi Bee. Along the same lines, a family history blog or an online family tree sounds might be worth trying as well, with everyone getting a chance to add their input. You would have to take privacy issues under consideration of course.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

Yes, it's strange that somethinmg so fascinating and addictive to one person can be such a yawn to another!

Very good hub :)


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK

Great ideas. I've set up a Facebook group for one set of my rediscovered cousins and we all contribute photos, memories and links on it. Having said that, we are all quite interested anyway. A couple of us have managed to meet up, but we would love to meet up as a group over in France and visit our three great-uncles' WW1 graves.

My husband, on the other hand, has no interest in "old stuff" whatsoever, no matter how I dress it up! Having said that I haven't tried singing - may be that would work!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

This is really good information and so interesting to read. Your suggestion to write the genealogy facts with interest will help family to know the specifics of family history. I enjoyed your suggestions on writing a book family interviews and taking a trip to the homeland. Voted up!

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