What Should You Get Your Family For Christmas?

Happy HalloThanksMas!

Actually, I don't like the intrusion of Christmas into November any more than the next person. However, planning ahead for Christmas purchases is a great financial tip. As Christmas is approaching, consider how you, as a family historian, could use this gifts you share this year could motivate your family to help capture and preserve memories in 2015.

After writing my book 21st Century Family Historian, I have spent much time thinking about simple ways you could attract family members put family back into family history.

1. Photo storage boxes 
If the family photo collection looks like this, a photo box
makes a perfect gift!
I rediscovered this blog post about the importance of proper preservation. The overall point is that organization is key. If your family photo collection looks like this photo, your family could use some better storage solutions. Also, consider giving these boxes to family members with the old magnetic albums that are doing more harm to the family photo collection.
You can find Kleer-Vu Archive Storage boxes on line in a variety of colors. The price is around $7/box.   
Give these purposeful and often attractive boxes as gifts and tell your family members to gather their loose photos into a box. Then tell them they organized the photos they're beyond amazing.
Challenge them to gather and/or organize the photos by Valentine's Day. This becomes a gift that could keep on giving, for now and well into the future. Your can reward your productive family members with delicious heart-themed sugary goodies in February if they accomplish the goal!!!  
2. Artifact & Collection storage supplies 
From acid-free labeling pens, to coin preservation sleeves, proper media storage boxes, and more... anything that can protect against further deterioration of family treasures would make a great family history themed gift. Gaylord Bros has is a trusted name in archival supplies with a such a wide variety of products you're certain to find something for the item on your list. 

3. Scanner 

If the family photo collection isn't digitized, it might be time for a scanner.
Most scanners on the market today do a wonderful job of digitizing your photos. If no one in your family has digitized any of your photos, next year could be the year to focus on photos. Do a simple Google Search for scanners. A flat bed scanner is very versatile but not portable. Wand scanners and FlipPals are popular because of their portability. There are also document scanners that can process a lot of pages quickly, however they are not good for photos or for fragile papers. Look at what you hope to scan and then do some research to find the right scanner.

4. Family History Inspired Photo Collages 
Many times for people to become interested in family history, they need to see it and be reminded of it. PibWib is a Houston, Texas based printing company that has wonderful family history themed collages that you can print. You'll need to download their design software to your computer to use their services.

5. Digital Photo Albums with space for writing 
I personally do not like digital photo albums that have little to no text inside them. However, many relatives live far away from each other. Many older relatives are not computer savvy. Why not create a digital photo album with various photos that you want to learn more about? Then, send the printed album and an archival safe pen to the family member who knows the story behind these photos. 
Inspire the gift receiver to write all over the books any memories, anecdotes about the people in the photos. The relative will not only be giving you the information you need and desire, but they'll be creating a new family heirloom... without harming the original photos! 
One of my favorite digital photo book making companies is Mixbook.com. Give them a try. Opt for layout color schemes that allow plenty of contrast between the pen's ink. Also use photo arrangements and leave room for writing.

6. A memory recording app 
I'll be honest, my digital sound recording has involved using my laptop and a microphone to record some one talking. I do not have any memory recording app recommendations, but you tech whizs out there should consider scouting for a voice recording app for your family members and buy them in the iTunes or Google Play stores for your relatives. If your intended relative is tech adverse, opt for something very simple that can export WAV files. If your intended user is more technically astute, then look for a story capture app that perhaps guides the user through family history oriented questions.  
If you find an app that is a great simple go to app, let me know. If you find a reliable app that is more robust, let me know that as well. If you want to buy me a really cool smart phone, send me an email. Okay, I'm just kidding. Just seeing if you're still with me!

7. A journal or a journal jar 
Journals are great personal history gifts. Today's memories are tomorrow's family history. Give a journaling kit as a gift. The kit would include a journal with a cover tailored to your relative's interest. A set of archival quality pens. A set of family history inspired journal prompts. The prompts could be put in a journal jar, as found in this blog post, or your could create a list of must answer questions to include with the book. Be sure the prompts are targeted to your individual to make it more interesting. Include prompts such, "Why do we always say something lost is with the Social Security Cards?" "Tell me the story of grandma's fiance who died before they married." "Why did Grandma Helen's hands always shake?" "Why is Aunt Mary Jane's real name actually Aunt Annie?" "Why did Grandpa Joe always whistle while he worked?" "Why do we always have pot roast on Sunday?" And so on and so forth. Certainly include some 'normal' prompts in the jar or on the list, but make it even more thoughtful by including story prompts for things you've been curious about.
Family History Motivational Book
Pick up your copy at Amazon.com
8. An motivational family history book 
Do you have family members who cringe at the thought of doing family history? Is someone in your midst a former genealogist who is burnt out? Do you have a genealogy lover who could use a few new ideas? Then my book 21st Century Family Historian would be a great read. For the reluctant readers, encourage them to read the first part of the book and then read one chapter from the second part that interests them. You might be surprised in how much more receptive they will be after reading this book.

I full believe in two things related to family history. First, that it can no longer be the effort of one individual who is 'into it'. The history is about a family and each family members should do something to help capture and preserve their collective memories. Secondly, turn people's hearts and you won't have to prod them to help. When I've focused on stories and memories, I have found more willing participants who will get out their photos and artifacts to share with me. Those items help me to that much more work and enrich the stories I uncover.

May your holiday season be filled with great new memories with your loved ones and perhaps be an opportunity to find a few more volunteers to help advance your family history related goals.

By the way, I'd love to say that if you use the services I recommend that I get a kick back, but the only thing I receive compensation for is my authored book. 


  1. What a great list. I hope somebody gives me some of these things!

    1. Thanks Wendy. Share my post on your Facebook feed or in an email to relatives with the words HINT, HINT, HINT #1 (or 2, or whatever). Hope that helps!

  2. Loved your list and thanks for the gentle push to start planning for the holidays NOW. For those who simply want to enjoy thinking about the family, I've found that small photo books containing photos of ancestors with brief stories or detailed captions gets attention. Who doesn't want to hear an interesting tidbit about some ancestor?

    1. Marian,

      That's a great idea! I was focused non-crafty things but you're right, a photo and a brief story in a photo book is a great idea. It doesn't have to be crafty either. Hmmm.... I'm thinking I just might do this!

      - Devon


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