Let’s be honest; at one time or another, we’ve all cringed at the words ‘family history’. But here are 25 family history ideas to make it more enjoyable, accessible, and meaningful for you and your family:
1. Learn an Ancestor’s Favorite Hymn/Song
This doesn’t have to be a distant relative, but if you know great-great grandmother’s favorite song that would be something really meaningful. My grandma’s favorite primary song was “Little Purple Pansies”, one I’d never heard before, and it was fun to learn it so that we could sing it together.
2. Learn to Make a Recipe from an Ancestor
The first year after my grandpa passed away we made his famous candied popcorn and took it with us to the cemetery on Memorial Day. This ended up being one of my favorite memories, all of us eating popcorn and sharing stories about my grandpa as we visited his grave.
3. Put Together a Family Recipe Book
This can be a book of your pioneer ancestors’ famous recipes, or the whole family can contribute. We have one that all the cousins and aunts and uncles contributed to. It doesn’t have to be fancy; ours is simply a black 3-ring binder with our family name on it.
4. Go to a Family Grave Site
Family members can share stories about the person buried there. If you can find a picture of the ancestor, that’s fun to take with you as well. While you’re at the cemetery do some service. All it takes is a bucket of water, and a sharp knife to clean up the site. Add a pumice stone for cleaning granite headstones. Or check out Billion Graves and see if the site can be recorded.
5. Visit a Family Homestead or Pioneer Site
I’ve found this tends to be more meaningful if you prepare beforehand for these. Take pictures of your ancestors with you on the trip, research the place online, and contact any family that may have visited the location beforehand for any advice.
6. Take a Family Field Trip to the Family History Library
The family history library can be a scary place—at least that’s what we often tell ourselves. In actuality, they’re fun research centers full of super helpful and incredibly nice people. Most of the libraries offer tours and some even have unique features like a Family Stories Room for video recording. Find the library closest to you.
7. Become Pen Pals with a Relative Far Away
This is a great way to stay in touch in a meaningful way and is especially fun for children who are just learning to write. It also gives the older generations a chance to share their stories, and frankly, who doesn’t love getting a letter in the mail instead of in their inbox?
8. Start a Family Blog
This is a great way for family living far apart to connect in a more private method than some social media. One blog can connect many relatives. Even those living close can use a family blog to promote a connection to each other and common ancestors. It can even be used (gasp) as a resource for traditional genealogy.
9. Interview a Grandparent/Parent
This is one of my favorites! If you don’t know where to start, try asking about a specific event in their life or a historic event that happened during their lifetime. It’s really fun to record these with video or even just audio for posterity to have. Record the interview and put it on Family Search for posterity.
10. Have a Family Reunion
These don’t have to be big and fancy. Have a picnic potluck with cousins, or go out to lunch with your siblings. Every Christmas my grandparents take each of their children’s families out to dinner separately so they get that close time with every family member.
11. Organize an Extended-Family Home Evening
This is a great way to get to know family members that are alive now, and you can even incorporate stories of family members that have passed on. Similar to family reunions, these events allow you not only to share memories of the past; they allow you to create new memories of your own.
12. Find Relatives Nearby and Share Stories
Relative Finder by BYU is a great way to do this, but so is simply asking around. You may be surprised how closely related your neighbors might be. Often, they may have information to fill gaps in your family tree and you for theirs. It’s also a great way to make new friends.
13. Request Patriarchal Blessings of Direct Ancestors
Did you know you can request a copy of your direct ancestors’ patriarchal blessings? This is a wonderful service the Church offers that few seem to know about. Once you have it, read it in turn with your own blessing; you might be surprised by similar phrases or promises.
14. Perform a Skit About an Ancestor
Okay these don’t have to be funny, but in my experience they usually end up hilarious and memorable. We’ve even done skits about my grandmother’s childhood and she usually laughs harder than anyone. And of course, the more absurd the props, the better!
15. Write a Poem, Story, or Song About an Ancestor
We all have talents in different areas. This is a great way to learn about your ancestors through your passion, or to try a new way to connect with a relative you haven’t met. Find a way to connect to your ancestors through a form of art or something else that has meaning for you.
16. Send Ancestors’ Stories to Missionaries
Missionary work is hard. I think all missionaries need a pick me up every once in a while, and sending them a story about an ancestor, whether inspiring, funny, or fascinating, is a great method for brightening both your days.
17. Write Down your Testimonies as a Family
This can be a great family home evening project. If you have colored paper, that can add more personality to someone’s words. If you have young children, have them hand write their testimonies and then include a typed version as well if their handwriting is still in its ‘foreign tongues’ stage. Bind them into a book, or paste them into a family book.
18. Take a Family Picture
If you have a large family or are doing this with extended family, try color coding each family with a different T-shirt color or color scheme. This produces a fun picture that shows how eternal families are connected, but are still unique and different from each other. Consider taking the picture with a temple in the background, and hanging the finished product in your home.
19. Share Stories about Ancestors
Set time aside ahead of time to share stories about parents, grandparents, or other relatives with family members. We used to do this at the table after we had eaten Sunday dinner, but now it’s simply whenever the family is all together. My parents would often share fun stories about their childhood or our grandparents, and they tried to tell us ones we hadn’t heard before.
20. Create an Ancestor Coloring Book
You don’t have to be an artist to create fun coloring pages for young and old alike. But if you are it’s a great way to connect with your ancestors in a way you’re already passionate. My cousin made a book of one ancestor’s journey to America. We all loved it and now know that particular story.
21. Have an Extended Family Talent Show
Or better yet don’t call them a talent show which scares people, and limits the talents you’ll see. In my family, we call them “discovery nights.” I’ve learned about my uncle’s secret cowboy poetry and one aunt’s dessert superpowers. It can also be a great opportunity to share stories of ancestors and even try out their hobbies or special talents.
22. Hang Ancestor’s Accomplishments for Inspiration
Sticky notes are great for this- I have them all over my mirror, a place I have to look no matter what kind of day I’m having. Remind yourself about your ancestors who had the courage to cross the Atlantic Ocean, who survived their educational years, or who just never gave up.
23. Read What Your Ancestor did on the Same Date
This is a great and unique way to connect with an ancestor. If you can’t find a journal entry, ask a parent or a grandparent what they may remember doing on that day.
24. Make a Generational Picture
This is a fun project my mom did a few years back. It involved one picture frame with me, my mother, my mother’s mother, and my grandmother’s mother. She also did one for my brother with our dad, his father, and his father’s father. It’s fun to see the family resemblance across generations.
25. Make a Memory Game
I recommend matching pictures for younger kids, or those of us who just don’t want to read while playing a game. It’s a great way to recognize that not all black and white pictures are the same, and the facts are fun to match too for a more advanced version.
There are so many ways to ‘do’ family history, whether learning about the past or creating our own history. What are some fun ways your family ‘does’ family history?