Monday, February 27, 2006

Making your Own Family Tree

By Christina VanGinkel

When most people think of creating a family tree, they often automatically think genealogy and all the research and time that can be consumed by such a hobby. While genealogy can be an interesting way to explore your family history, and document your ancestors, for this project, making a family tree is just as much fun, but a whole lot simpler.

Supplies required, can vary depending on whether you want to create the project completely by hand, or with the aid of your computer, and inkjet or laser printer. To create it by hand, you will need basic paper crafting supplies, including a ruler, an oval stamp or template, a calligraphy pen that is archival safe, a frame and mat (I used and 11" by 14" frame, with an interior mat of 8" by 10"), and acid free paper. Paper can be plain, or decorative in texture, depending on your own personal preferences, but should not be a printed pattern, as you will be adding a tree and text, it should also be heavy enough to water brush onto. You will also need watercolor pencils, paintbrush, acid free glue, and information about your immediate family tree, including birthdays, deaths, and wedding dates. If your tree is small, you could also include dates such as baptisms to create a more complete look to the project.

Start by either drawing freehand, or printing via your computer and printer a tree. The tree should be light in color, such as a watermark, covering the main portion of the page. I have seen the trees done bare branched, or with the image of a fully leafed tree, and both work well. That choice is totally a personal preference. Once you have the tree's outline printed, color it in with the watercolor pencils, and then brush over lightly with water and a paintbrush. If you have just a trunk of a tree, you could still add highlights of color, or color in the background with a light blue for a sky background. Let dry thoroughly, and move on to the next part of the project, giving it time to dry.

On scraps of paper, write down those family members and dates that you plan to incorporate onto the tree. With the scraps, place them onto the tree where they will be in order from youngest to oldest, incorporating the joining of family members through marriages, etc. Once you have everything laid out in a manner that works chronologically, and is pleasing to the eye, you can then use the stamp or template to make space for each part of the tree's information. If you want to print these out on the computer first, and crop them to fit, that is also an option. Glue the individual ovals of information in place, or write with the calligraphy pen directly onto the ovals you stamped. If the tree is for yourself, leave a few blank ovals scattered about the page if you have the room, or if you know that, there will soon be additions to the family tree in the form of a marriage or birth. Once everything is in place, mat and frame as desired.

A family tree such as this makes a good gift for an elderly family member, or even a newlywed couple who have just joined the family. It would also be a good gift to give a family member who just had a baby, with the baby the last in the family line of descendants. I originally made myself a family tree such as this not long after I was married. I updated it a few years later, after the birth of my third child, by filling in the blank spaces I had intentionally left. My mother-in-law commented on how much she liked it, so I ended up making her one the following Christmas.

A family tree such as this is also a good project that you can get the kids involved in, having them help with both the layout and the lettering, or even having them make their own alongside of yours, letting . You could even have an older child 'interview' their elders for details on dates and such. If you were considering a hobby in genealogy, this would be a good project to test the waters with.

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