Family Trees are Pretty — by Guest Mom Leslie

January 18, 2008

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

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mkoleary January 18, 2008 at 12:53 pm

What a beautiful family tree. I have thought of doing something like this in my kiddos room. Thanks for all your posts this week. I have really enjoyed reading them.

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2 Gingerlylizzy January 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Hi, I read all the time but have never left a comment. Your blog is inspiring! Would you mind telling me what color that is on your wall behind all of those beautiful old photos? I love it!

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3 michelle January 18, 2008 at 1:48 pm

What a great post! Thanks Leslie.

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4 Jessica January 18, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Leslie, that is the most beautiful wall I’ve ever seen. I am surely inspired by it, and it makes me even more excited about my impending visit to Ellis Island to see my great-grandpa’s name on the wall of immigrants.

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5 Dana January 18, 2008 at 2:09 pm

I remember seeing this in Martha’s Magazine the first time it came about….I loved it then and love it even more now that there are little kiddos about.

Thanks for the inspiration and all of your wonderful posts this week!

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6 Silly Marie January 18, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I love this post. Thanks so much for the links. I’ve been contemplating how I can make a family wall at my house so this is helpful.

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7 Melissa January 18, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Oh my gosh! I have this same exact wall in my dining room. My started by having a big blank wall and my mom starting a scrapbook of my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I got cheap frames from Target as well but I added a personalized painted border around it. You can see it on my blog at http://allthatabagofchipps.blogspot.com

It’s my favorite wall in the house too!

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8 Leslie January 18, 2008 at 4:05 pm

gingerlylizzy, (great name by the way!), the color on my wall was a custom color chosen by the previous owners of our house. So, it doesn’t have a name, but if you’re really curious, I could dig out the touch-up can and send you the formula.

email me if you want it!

flowerchain@gmail.com

thanks for reading everyone, have a great weekend!

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9 feltc January 18, 2008 at 5:05 pm

I am so inspired by your wall and have the perfect place in my home for the same thing. Thank you for sharing- time to dig for black and white photos!

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10 eimrek January 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm

I love this idea! I have a family heirloom piano on a blank wall, and lots of old photos and mementos. I love the idea of reprinting the photos for all to share, and to keep the originals safe! I may even start this weekend! Thanks!

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11 Jill January 18, 2008 at 5:09 pm

really really loved this post, that fan chart is so beautiful. thanks!

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12 Carla January 18, 2008 at 5:50 pm

This post is so timely! One of my to do’s for the new year is to create something my daughter can turn to learn about her heritage. I had planned on something like a journal but now that you’ve shared so many beautiful ways to display a family tree, my project is headed in a different direction. I’m super excited! Thanks for posting!

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13 Carla January 18, 2008 at 6:29 pm

K- so totally going to comment again after like 5 seconds but I checked out your blog then linked to your sister’s blog and then found her family history blog and was totally inspired! It’s a great way to keep track of everything and share with the rest of the family. Is she ever wants to get it made into a book I believe Blurb will convert blogs into books. Random…but just really excited about your post (can you tell).

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14 Cocoa January 18, 2008 at 7:34 pm

I have a wall very similar to this in my home. It always brings compliments from guests. My children love to point to a photo and tell their ancestors story to anyone who will listen.

I do want/need to make a fan chart. That would add so much to my wall!

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15 vfg January 18, 2008 at 7:43 pm

I did a version of the brown w/white lettering family tree a few years ago for myself and my parents & in-laws as gifts. I think they turned out great, but have to say my tree is much less elegant than the man who did that one, with his limited information. I did 5 generations, and have all the names, so our tree crowns were much more live-oak than poplar.

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16 go boo boo January 18, 2008 at 10:55 pm

what a beautiful post! I loved your week at designmom. you rock & I would love to copy both your wall color and the family tree thing too! see, still such a trendsetter.

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17 heather January 19, 2008 at 3:58 am

I’ve been starting to get into researching my dad’s side of the family. Now that my husband and I are living in Germany I’ve been able to find a lot more about my dad’s German descendants here. I’ve even gone to visit a quiet little German town that my ancestors left to immigrate to America. I like feeling my family come full circle!!

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18 Kirsten Sue January 19, 2008 at 9:18 am

What a great idea for a post! I made my dad a family tree for Christmas. I got it at Red Envelope. It’s beautiful and a really good gift idea. But man was it hard work! I tried familysearch and indexing and all the stuff but couldn’t find anything. So I ended up calling my aunt. We spent half an hour together going through names and dates. It was wonderful. I love your blogs! Keep up the good work!

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19 Miriam January 19, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I have really enjoyed your posts, especially the one about Gustavian style. You have such a laid-back yet exuberant approach to the things you love. I don’t get the sense that you’re caught up in the need to look chic- you seem instead to be amassing things you love to fill your family’s surroundings.

Thanks for posting this week!

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20 eclecticentertaining January 19, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Martha By Mail sold a fan chart (before it went away – boo hoo) and I bought one. After having my second child, I found a lot of vintage fan charts on eBay and I bought them. (3 came with it). Following a friend’s lead, I had a calligrapher fill in the names. Now both of my boys will have one.

In a separate place in my house, I have a family wall also. Along with photos, I frame birth announcements, wedding invites, etc.

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21 Charlotte January 20, 2008 at 1:20 am

That is my favorite wall as well and I just got the receipt… looks like Tyler got me one of those fan charts. I may need some help filling it out!

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22 june cleaver January 20, 2008 at 2:01 pm

I only wish Leslie was Guest Design Mom for the entire month. She deserves an encore. Great job Leslie. Your ideas are fabulous.

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23 KellySchwark.com January 21, 2008 at 7:36 am

What a wonderful display of your childresn’s history. They are a result of GENERATIONS of love!

For my baby shower last June, my grandmother had put together all of the information that she had found (online!) as well as photographs and letters that had been passed down to her. She even gave me a quilt in which the squares were first created on our ancestor’s trip on the Oregon Trail!

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24 BeachysCapeCodCupboard January 21, 2008 at 10:22 am

Oh how cool! I love how you’ve displayed your family’s history! Both sides of my family are big onto genealogy research, and I just had to add here that we are very distant cousins, as I, too, descend from William the Conqueror! =)

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25 Jill J January 21, 2008 at 10:48 am

Sooooo Leslie. What New York design firms do you consult for? I love your “designers eye” and it is quite apparent that you have a bright future in the design world. Im very impressed with your designs and your eye for elegant detail. Your week in the directors chair was a total success. Nicely done!

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26 Katie January 21, 2008 at 3:53 pm

wow! that is beautiful… it looks like it is from a Martha Stewart mag… you are amazing- Leslie!

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27 jan b. January 21, 2008 at 5:35 pm

We want more of Leslie! We want more of Leslie! We want more of Leslie! RA! RA! RA! That is my little cheer for Leslie.

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28 sara January 21, 2008 at 5:47 pm

I love your favorite wall and really want to make one of my own now!! I have a prized 5-generation photo (with me as a baby) and a wall like that would be the perfect place to display it. Also, it would be nice to have a “fan” or tree with all the names on it… instead of having all those names stashed away in my many geneology file folders!

Thanks for the great post and GREAT job on DM this week!! :)

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29 Dee January 21, 2008 at 8:14 pm

What a wonderful, inspiring idea!

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30 Natalie September 22, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for this great idea! I spent over a year tracing genealogy and this is a beautiful way to display it outside of the book I created.

You should definitely use Ancestry.com for any genealogy research. It's very helpful and their book templates are beautiful.

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