Tracking Your Past

Doris Green

Whether you’re considering a year-end gift to encourage a budding genealogist or making your own list for Santa, the possibilities outnumber the branches on your family tree.

New genealogists would likely find introductory guides and workbooks useful. A few are even free, like the National Genealogical Society’s (www.ngsgenealogy.org) “How to Build a Family Tree” and its “Getting Started” tutorial.

Any family historian would welcome a membership in the National Genealogical Society, Wisconsin State Genealogical Society (https://wsgs.org), Wisconsin Historical Society (www.wisconsinhistory.org) or organizations related to a specific heritage. Most offer books of genealogical interest, like these WHS titles: “Journey from Cornwall,” “Frenchtown Chronicles of Prairie du Chien: History and Folklore” and “Germans in Wisconsin.” Your librarian, bookstore or Amazon may suggest other new and older titles about a specific research area, such as the Black Hawk War or Belgian immigration to Wisconsin.

Venturing beyond books, www.etsy.com offers 250 genealogy items — from coffee mugs (“I collect dead relatives.”) to t-shirts (“I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.”), to maps, charts, scrapbooks and face masks (“Eventually, all genealogists come to their census.”) 

Memberships to for-profit sites like Ancestry.com are always an option. Some genealogists would prefer a gift certificate for www.arkivdigital.net, a Swedish genealogy site, www.genealogybank.com, a newspaper database, or other targeted sites. Others might welcome a gift certificate to www.Shutterfly.com or another site where they could upload family photos to create an album.

But you don’t need Shutterfly to create individual prints of fascinating old family photos you’ve rediscovered. You can frame the photo to enclose in Christmas cards and spark interest in our ancestors. Be sure to identify their names on the back.

DNA kits have become popular gifts, though you’ll want to carefully consider the type of kit. While Family Tree may provide links to other living relatives, others may offer unwanted genetic health information.

The gift of time to make new memories may be the most valuable present of all. Sharing a day in a cemetery or leading a driving tour of places of interest — the church where Great-Grandma and Grandpa married, or their first house — could become a family benchmark. Related gifts could include a rubbing stick and large paper pad for a cemetery visit or a copy of a 19th-century plat map. Helping an older relative clean out a closet or scan photos would also underscore the value of your family heritage.

Doris Green authored “Elsie’s Story: Chasing a Family Mystery” and “Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Cave, Mines, and Tunnels.” New this year: “Minnesota Underground: A Guide to Caves & Karst, Mines & Tunnels” is co-authored Greg Brick. Contact http://henschelhausbooks.com, Amazon or your bookstore.