One of my favorite hobbies involves researching the people in my family tree. Now before you click away thinking this to be a boring, old-lady hobby, bear with me for a minute.

This is my favorite wall in my home. (Don’t you just love seeing inside peoples’ houses?) I call it my “family wall,” though I’ve never met most of the people pictured here. The fan chart in the center records the names of some of my and my husband’s ancestors. I filled it in myself (in a very uncalligraphical way) and popped it in a poster-sized frame, for now. I want to be able to retrieve it when more names are found. (Side note: my chart especially came in handy when we were contemplating baby names.) You can get the same fan chart for around $10 here. My “old” photos are mostly just reprints from other family members’ collections, placed into inexpensive black frames from Target. The images had been burned onto CDs and distributed to the family by generous relatives. The artifacts in shadowboxes have been collected at little come-and-take-what-you-want sessions my husband’s family has had (lucky for me). You can see those little gems up close here and here.

Martha Stewart’s company likes to promote family history research, too. They have featured several different “family tree” projects over the years and sold project helpers in their catalog that once was. They have a way of making family trees decorative and informative, of course. Here are some of their quick and easy researching tips, concisely stated.

They’ve created a downloadable template to make a fan chart similar to mine, here, and tips on how to fill it out and put it on display, here.

I found this beautiful hand-lettered and more contemporary family tree project on Martha’s website, too. You can get a better look at the small printed names by looking at this image.

The best way I’ve found to get started putting together a family tree is to Google the first ancestor’s name you can think of. Go back to at least your great-grandparents’ generation (call your grandma if needed, she’d love to hear from you), and Google a name in quotes. See what comes up! People with this hobby are very giving and generous with their time. I’ve had complete strangers go through old city records and mail me copies of documents. I discovered that I am the 30th great-grandchild of William the Conqueror. How cool is that? You may even find long, lost cousins, as I have, and make connections around the country or even further away. It really only takes moments to become engrossed in your history. Either way, it’s a great way to spend your free time. I haven’t had much of that lately, but when the time comes again, the fever will hit me just as it has in the past. There are still LOTS of blank spaces on my chart!

This is my last post this week, so I’d like to include a few endnotes: I want to thank my friend, Natalie, for helping me with the collages I posted this week, my husband for reading and rereading my drafts, and my sister Stephanie, for making me look good in my bio picture. — Leslie