I don’t know about you: I LOVE huge family tree charts that the whole family can gather around and which are almost too big to lay out in a normal-sized living room. I love it when each family member runs their finger down a different branch in the tree and stops at a different relative or ancestor.
And since I happen to be a graphic designer and work in a print shop, the thought occurred to me: why not make these charts myself?
No sooner said than done. Now, of course, the question is, who do you design this for, what should be on it, and what’s the right occasion for gifting one? Milestone birthdays seem an obvious choice, as do weddings: great events in which two families are officially connected.
I would now like to introduce you to the families that I have already given such a family tree scroll and encourage you to try it yourself. The delight and gratitude you’ll receive are well worth the work.
The 98th birthday of Helen Gansauer
On my second visit to America in 2012, I was invited by cousin Patricia to her Aunt Helen’s 98th birthday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Helen was the granddaughter of a Gansauer emigrant from Germany, and German was spoken in her grandparents’ house. Since the relatives from Pittsburgh were also not quite clear how they were related to the clan from Chicago or even to me, the idea of giving her a family tree was naturally obvious here. Since I still lacked the technical capabilities at that time; I had to draw everything by hand.
After the event, Patricia had the family tree copied at an architectural firm, and each of the attendees received a copy in the mail.
Christmas present for Aunt Betty Gansauer
During one of my visits to American relatives, where I sketched a small family tree for our meeting, Betty Gansauer, a lovely lady of more than 90 years old, mentioned how beautiful she found such records of family trees. This statement was reason enough for me to delve a little deeper into her family history. Here I had to rely on the Census Records available online, local chronicles, and MyHeritage’s historical records and Smart Matches. Since Betty had connections to British nobility on both her father’s and mother’s side, the scroll became quite long. Additionally, she is also a descendant of Pocahontas, sharing Native American roots with Hollywood stars such as Edward Norton or the 23rd U.S. President, Benjamin Harrison. Once again, this scroll was hand-painted and a “bit” larger than a normal poster.
Wedding gift for Chris and Natalie
The first official wedding scroll was for my cousin Roger’s son, one of my two main hosts when I vacation in America. Roger’s cousin Caryl also shares a passion for genealogy, so at least for that branch of the family, I had plenty of material to work with. I was also lucky enough to find a passionate genealogist in the bride’s aunt, so I was able to cover both branches well, and all that was left for me to do was the design. Because of the sheer size of the tree and the complicated cross-connections that existed between the families, the gift was also not finished until the day before the ceremony. One takeaway from all of this is that the bride and groom are roughly 20th cousins (as are we all, really) and that the roots of both families connect somewhere in Scotland.
By the way, the couple named their two children using names from the family tree. This, for me, first American wedding, was to be followed by many more….
More weddings: Morgan and Kelly
Just one year later, I was back in the States. This time, it was to attend the wedding of my cousin Morgan, the son of Roger’s brother Jason. I had known Morgan since my first visit to Chicago in 2010, and I got to meet his girlfriend Kelly a few years later as well. By now they are all cousins to me — who is counting how many degrees. These two received first family tree scroll I created using software; before this, they were all hand-drawn. The advantage of using software is that you can quickly correct mistakes; the disadvantage is that you are even more annoyed when you find one in the printed version! Like Christopher and Natalie the year before, these two also have a smaller family tree chart and a large family tree scroll, and just for fun, a large record of how the relatives who came to the wedding were all related.
As with the year before, these two could be found to have common ancestors going back many centuries. This inspired me to tell a little story before I gave them the family tree: I asked them if they both knew the history of Bluetooth technology. At first glance, this doesn’t have much to do with genealogy. However, history buffs know that Bluetooth got its name from King Harald Blauzahn, who united the various tribes of Norway. And a legend says that his blue teeth came from eating too much blueberries (but lack of hygiene is probably more correct). So I also bought them blueberry brandy, which they now drink every year on their wedding anniversary. King Harald Blauzahn was, by the way, the common ancestor of the two…
Small interlude: a family tree for Caryl’s son-in-law
By now, creating family tree scrolls had become a very fun hobby for me. My dearest cousin Caryl now asked if I could create something like it for her son-in-law. She said she had already researched all the dates and would now like to see it in paper form. Again it was very individual, because Corey — the son-in-law — had English, German and Polish ancestors. With his German roots, we found that he was descended from the first German emigrants, the “Original 13,” who had left for America in 1683. So this time I created the file for Caryl and she took care of the printing.
Two weddings: Laura and Kayla
There were no big celebrations in both Europe and America during the COVID pandemic, which forced me to “dance at two weddings” in 2022. Cousin Laura, Caryl’s granddaughter, had already been officially married in a small ceremony, but she didn’t want to miss out on the big wedding celebration. And since she had already mentioned at previous weddings that she would also like to have a family tree scroll someday, there was no way I could refuse this request.
Cousin Kayla, the daughter of Roger and Caryl’s cousin Brian, had also been married in a small ceremony the year before. Since the couple didn’t host a big celebration, they received their family tree in the mail. Again, I was fortunate to be able to draw on a wealth of information, as both Kayla’s mother and her husband Grant’s parents were more than willing to provide information and photos of their family history.
In conclusion, I can only advise everyone to consider giving a family tree chart as a gift for family members both close and distant. While not everyone may have the means to print something on a continuous roll, even the hand-drawn copies were the centerpiece of any celebration. We as genealogists have the gift of bringing the family closer together through such a gift, as somehow everyone has some interest in their ancestry. The work is ours, but if it’s fun, it’s not really work, is it?
Sebastian Gansauer, 42, lives in Germany and has been researching his family history for 25 years. He has been a MyHeritage user for over 10 years and has a family tree with over a 100,000 relatives.
By the way, you don’t have to work nearly as hard as Sebastian did to make a beautiful family tree chart — for free — using MyHeritage! This article on the MyHeritage Knowledge Base will show you how: How to Make a Family Tree Chart or Book on MyHeritage
The post Family Tree Charts: How I Create the Perfect Gift for Family Occasions appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.
Source: My Heritage