With the holidays coming up, now is the perfect time to think of the genealogy projects you want to complete for December. With so much going on this month, such as parties, family get-togethers, holiday celebrations, religious celebrations, and more, it may seem like there isn’t much room for genealogy work in the middle of all of that busyness. Yet, December is, surprisingly, the ideal time to tackle some important genealogy projects, and you can definitely work them into your otherwise busy end of the year schedule. In fact, you’ll be glad you did. Here are ten “must-do” genealogy projects for December.
1. Make Genealogy-Themed Christmas Tree Ornaments
If you celebrate Christmas, take some time at the beginning of the month to make Christmas tree ornaments that honor your ancestors. Using picture frames with holiday-themed shapes, take copies of photos of your ancestors starting with the ones who are still alive and going back as far as you have pictures in your family tree. Size the picture copies so they fit into the frames, then label the bottoms of the frames with a label maker or a Sharpie, indicating the ancestor’s name, birth date, and (if applicable), death date, as well as a place of origin. If you celebrate another holiday at this time of year, you can still do this project and just put the pictures on your wall around your other holiday decorations.
2. Create a Family-Friendly Family Tree
This is a good project for any holiday that brings a family get together along with it. Print out your family tree going back as many generations as you can while still being able to include readable birth and death dates and places, with room for photos if you have them. You can print it out in sections and tape them together using double-sided tape to make a perfect tree. Put it in a frame and hang it on your wall in a prominent place where relatives can see it. It will make a good conversation piece for your get together, and likely prompt many interesting stories about your ancestors from your family members who knew them (or knew people who knew them).
3. Make Some Old-Fashioned Family Holiday Recipes
If you have old family recipes, now is the time to make the holiday ones. Some of the older people in your family may remember these dishes and be happy to have them, while the dishes will introduce newer family members to old family traditions.
4. Decorate Like in the Old Days
If you have vintage holiday decorations that were used by your ancestors, bring them out, and use them. If you don’t have any of these, use research to discover how your ancestors decorated and get the supplies to do a re-enactment. It will give everyone in the family an opportunity to discuss family history and traditions.
5. Watch Old Holiday Movies
Gather the family together and watch several holiday movies that represent each generation present at the gathering. This will give everyone pleasure and a chance to relive their youth through nostalgia. It may also prompt people to tell genealogically valuable stories about their childhoods and old family holiday traditions.
6. Make Wrapping Paper from Old Maps
If you have or can acquire old maps of the towns where your ancestors lived, you can make copies of these maps and turn them into wrapping paper for gifts. The wrapping paper will be charming and different and will give everyone a reason to discuss the family history as they unwrap their gifts.
7. Add Holiday Details to Your Family Tree Notes
With the other projects on this list, you will be learning a lot about the ways your ancestors on different branches of your family celebrated the holidays. Take some time in between your holiday preparations to record this information in the notes section of your family tree to make a more interesting, detailed family history.
8. Put Poinsettias or Other Holiday Plants on Your Ancestors’ Headstones
Honor your ancestors by showing them you still remember them and want to include them in family holiday celebrations by putting poinsettias on the headstones of the ones that are located near you. If your family celebrates a holiday other than Christmas, use the traditional holiday plant of your family.
9. Write a Chapter of Your Family History Book
If you’re writing a family history book, taking it slowly by writing a chapter a month makes it not so overwhelming and ensures it gets completed. You’ve got all month to work on your book’s next chapter, so use your downtime during the holiday madness to work on that chapter and finish it.
10. Watch Old Family Movies and Videos
If you have old reel-to-reel family movies from decades ago, VHS tapes of family events from the recent past, and/or digital family movies from a few years ago, bring them out and watch them with your loved ones. Everyone will enjoy the fond memories and nostalgia these movies and videos will bring, and it will remind you all why you love each other and the importance of family all year-long, not just at the holidays.