Family History can be a solo activity. It is ironic that the nature of genealogical research is often that it isolates us from our families. We find ourselves alone in a family history center or The Family History Library at a computer or a microfilm reader looking at records. We spend time pouring over transcriptions late into the evening when the rest of the family has gone to bed.
When we are most excited about our discoveries we tell our families. They are polite and try to be excited for us, but they often don’t understand all of what we are talking about. This happens to me and it has happened to virtually every genealogical researcher I know.
How do we engage our families in knowing about their family? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Use photos and stories
FamilySearch has done some research and determined that each time you share a photo on Facebook from FamilySearch you will have ten visits to that photo. Stories have a similar outcome. When is the last time that you shared one of your genealogical discoveries and had ten family members voluntarily come and look at it. Photos and stories are a powerful way to get the family involved. Even if the photo is of a record you have found, with a little explanation from you, it will generate interest. Sharing in bite size chunks is important, and allowing family members to engage with it when and how they would like is equally important.
2. Use Technology
There are a growing number of fun family history technologies that are developing. Yesterday I visited rootsmapper.com. It is engaging and visual. This type of experience is perfect for the non-researcher. It shows them the information about the family in a graphical and engaging way. Share experiences like this that will change the view held by family members of what family history is about.
3. Fun Charts
Fan charts have been very popular. Fan charts, tree charts, and other visual ways to represent the family are great ways to share. Morgan Valley Crafts recently added the capability to print large charts (up to 42 inches wide). These type of large format charts and pictures engage and interest family members, particularly the non-researchers.
4. Small Family Books
Each year at Christmas I see families producing spiral bound books about their families. This is a great way to share. The books need to be very visual with short stories that can be read in a few minutes. Generally a picture on each page is a good idea.
Family history is fun and uplifting. Sharing our family history can be the most rewarding part. If you have ideas on what have worked to share your family history please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org .