Family Reunion T Shirt

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One of my music students came to class wearing this fun reunion shirt and I just couldn’t help but share it with you.  Such a fun and simple design. Notice the family name at the top and the date and place at the  bottom of the shirt. 

We’ve done a lot of reunion shirts over the years but when this cute little guy wore an old shirt his dad wore I was thrilled.  Keeping old reunion t-shirts year after year means you always have something to wear to the family reunion!

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When You Were My Age Giveaway

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We’re so excited about our new and updated version of “When You Were My Age Party” that we’re giving away a free copy to one of our subscribers.  Just tell us what celebration you might  use this party  for in the comments section of this blog and we will randomly select one person to receive a free copy on December 1st, 2013.

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Our new version of “When You Were My Age” includes a fill in the blank invitation and gives you 37 pages of information for the years 1921- 2010.

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This is such a fun program, fashioned after a Bill Cosby Show episode and was called, "When Mom Was my Age." We have done variations of the program for 70th and 80th birthdays and 50th wedding anniversaries. Each time we do "When You Were My Age" everyone is thrilled and excited to be a part of the celebration. Everyone has a part on the program and an opportunity to highlight world events and significant family happenings throughout the life of your loved one.

This is a great way to honor your Grandma or Grandpa on their special birthday or your Dad or Mom on their 50th anniversary. Celebrating a landmark birthday or anniversary is always going to be a lot of work but with this package you’ll be well on your way to saying "We love you" in a very special way.

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Time Capsule Dig

Family Reunion Time Capsule

Five years later and we finally got to dig up our time capsule!  Five years ago at our Stewart family reunion we had every family member fill out a questionnaire.  We asked questions about the present, their predictions for the future and invited everyone to set some goals that they hoped to accomplish by the time we opened the capsule in 2013.

On the 2nd day of our reunion this year, we went to Grandma’s house where the time capsule was buried to begin our search for the capsule we had buried five years ago.  We followed a very funny set of clues that cousin Tyler made up to find the capsule. 

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The first clue took us to the "”three pronged wooded fork” and then led us to a spot under Grandma’s bathroom window…. but there was no capsule there.

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Retracing our steps we realized that we had misinterpreted the clues and on this attempt found the time capsule buried at the corner of the house.  It took a little digging and we broke the lid off of the capsule but we found all our questionnaires safe and sound.

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Family History Church

We read our questionnaires at  the conclusion of our annual family history “church” we hold at each reunion.  Some of us found that we had remained focused during the five years and completed our goals and some found that their goals had been forgotten.  Some of us predicted what the price of gas would be in 2013 pretty accurately and some found they were living in a fantasy land. We had questioners from old boyfriends that had attended our reunion that year and from a dear Grandpa who had passed away.

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Our family time capsule was a big hit and family members voted to make another time capsule next year.  We’re already working on the questions for our new questionnaire.

Family Reunion Payback Pockets

Payback pockets are a fun way to pay back family members for the difference they have made in your life.  Payback pockets are a fun way to “pay back” your family for the difference they have made in your life-  way of showing appreciation and a way  of saying thanks.

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Our Payback pockets were labeled in fun way using money terms such as Steve’s Sawbucks, Ann’s Ante and Lynn’s Loot.

Writing Station

Set up a writing “station” and stock it with stationary, stickers, markers and colored paper.  Having fun stickers and stationary encourages family members to write notes. 

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You don’t need to set aside any time for note writing during your reunion.  Family members will find their own time  to write  whether it’s during some reunion downtime or during an activity they may not wish to participate in.

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The little ones in our family had fun writing notes, well, actually drawing pictures, and they loved using the markers and stickers.

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The reunion planners used the pockets as a way of delivering special treats and surprises during our reunion.  One day each Big Six received crackers, chocolate and marshmallows for S’mores around the campfire.  Another day  bouquet of lollypops was delivered to each pocket.

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This is what LOVE looks like…

Organizing Family Photos for Great-Grandparents

I can’t even keep track of my 16 nieces and nephews’ kids- what would I do if I had 40 grandchildren and 52, and counting, GREAT- grand children whose names I wanted to remember.  Well, I guess I’d do what Elgie and Ruth Hale have done- a family photo wall. 

Family Photo Wall

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Most grandparents would like to keep in close contact with the grandchildren, remember birthdays and other holidays and attending special events in their grandchild’s life.  When grandparents turn into GREAT- grandparents, the challenge of knowing the great-grands becomes a bit more challenging.

The Hale’s met this challenge by dedicating one wall in their home to their  grandchildren and great-grands whose photos are displayed in 4×6 frames on their special family wall.  They are listed from oldest to youngest with each name displayed at the bottom of the frame.

Family members know what size of picture fits in the frames and can send updated school pictures or candid shots to be placed in their own special frame.

Grandma’s Brag Books

Of course, if you don’t want to devote a whole wall to your family photos you could keep them in a three ring binder or smaller photo “brag” book and refer back to it before family gatherings and special occasions.  A book such as this would be a wonderful gift for Great Grandma and a fun project for a grand daughter.

Cortina Leather Mini Brag Book Photo Wallet, Price/piece

Family Reunion Photos

Next time your family gets together for a family reunion or party take a family photo.  Take your cue from school class photos and label the photo with family member’s names for easy reference.

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However you choose to do it- helping Great-Grandma and Grandpa stay in touch with their great grandchildren can help connect the child to their roots and enhances the grandparents’ legacy.

The only thing I would change about the Hales family photo wall would be to add the following quote- because at the Hale home this really is what LOVE looks like.

Family Vinyl Words & Wall Quotes #64

Genealogy Themed Photo Books

I’m so lucky because I had some ancestors that wrote things down and family members, like my Mom and my brother, Scott who made sure old photos were labeled, digitalized and stored safely.  My contribution to their efforts is to share some of my ancestors life stories in digital photo books.

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Tell Your Ancestor’s Story

Besides making a reunion scrapbook each year, I have also made family history or genealogy books. This is fun to do if you have a lot of stories about an ancestor. The book pictured below is about an ancestor and the decision they made to come to America. I didn’t try to tell their whole life story just the events that led up to their coming to America and their arrival here.

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As you might expect, part of the challenge when making this type of photo book is getting enough pictures to go in the book.  I handled that problem by finding generic pictures on the internet and using them in my books. For instance, if Grandma got a 1950’s blue Schwinn bike for her 8th birthday search for that image on the internet and add it to your book. (Note: be sure images are not copywrited) In the picture below you see a page that is telling about a conversation our ancestors had in their kitchen.  Of course I didn’t have a picture of their kitchen but I did find a picture of cooking utensils they might have had in their kitchen and included that in my photo book.

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I repeated the same idea with this page.  Although not personable to my ancestor it is representative of life when the story took place.

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The best pages are those that feature actual photos of ancestors to illustrate real stories from their life’s. 

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The easiest photo books to create are those of loved ones that are still living.  When my Mom celebrated her latest milestone birthday we gave her a book of lessons learned and fun experiences we had growing up with her.  We titled it “Teachings, Tall Tales and Inspirations” and Mom loves it.

Sharing Your Photo Book

You can buy copies of your book to give as gifts to family members, auction them off to raise money for your reunion or just let family members know the book is there and let everyone buy their own copy.

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Emory University concluded in a recent study of children ages 14-16 that “a child’s ability to retell family stories was linked to lower instances of depression, anxiety and less acting out due to frustration and anger”.  There is an African saying that "a people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots."Kind of reminds me of my favorite reunion quote, “A tree without roots falls over.”  The moral to this story- share the stories of your ancestors whether it be around the campfire or in a genealogy themed photo book.

Aunt MO

Scrapbooking Your Reunion with Digital Photo Books

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After we’ve played all the reunion games, roasted all the marshmallows, sang all the songs and I’ve taken 700 pictures of the action, I can hardly wait to get back home and see what amazing pictures I’ve taken of my family reunion.  I load my pictures on my computer and begin to make a family reunion DIGITAL scrapbook.

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Making these reunion scrapbooks is fun for me- much less time consuming than the “olden days” when I had to measure, cut and paste everything. And did I mention the MESS- there is NO mess with digital scrapbooking. You just slide your digital photos into predesigned layouts, add digital stickers and some suitable digital paper backgrounds and and then you send it off to the printer. Setup and cleanup are literally as easy as pushing a button. Everything is contained within your computer- NO SETTING UP OR PICKING UP AFTERWARDS. 

I recently read an blog by Bradylou that lists about 10 reasons why digital scrapbooking is a good alternative to traditional scrapbooking- she has some great ideas- read her blog at bradylou.com

I always make a reunion scrapbook for myself and one for Grandma and Grandpa (taking advantage of BOGO sales.)  Everyone enjoys reliving reunion memories when they visit Grandma and look through the books.

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I use two scrapbook companies for my digital scrapbooks- Picaboo and Mixbook.

Picaboo Photo Books

I prefer Picaboo when I have a lot of photos I want to include in my book. Picaboo does not force you to spend hours uploading photos before you can create a project. Rather, with Picaboo installed, you can make a complete, ready-to-order book in a short amount of time. Picaboo has amazing customer service and I love their “chat” service. When I have an idea but don’t know how to implement it I just chat with their helpful costumer service people.  Picaboo has cool and FREE backgrounds you can use- thousands of them- I love the pizza one pictured below.

Picaboo is running a deal this week for up to 40%.

Up to 40% off Classic books and calendars. Ends 7/16. Use code: SUNNYDAYS.

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Mixbook Scrap Books

Mixbook does not require that you download their software. The feature I like most about Mixbook is that it allows you to choose one of their professional designs (or you can start from scratch) and easily and quickly create a photo book. I also like the “stickers” you can add to yourbook.  You can move, crop, rotate, pan and zoom on photos; add stickers and backgrounds; and create custom layouts.

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Right now Mixbook has a deal going-

Deal:Get $15 off $50!
Code:15OFF50
Valid: 07/12/12 4:00 am PST – 07/16/12 11:59pm PST
Restrictions: This offer is only valid with coupon code 15OFF50. This offer cannot be combined with other coupons, vouchers, Groupons, or applied after an order has been placed. Discount applies only to completed projects. No adjustments on previous purchases. Shipping and taxes will apply.
Offer expires 07/16/2012 (11:59 pm PST).

Once your scrapbook is completed you can sell additional copies for family members that preorder them or auction them off at your net reunion auction as a fundraiser.

Check Aunt Mo’s blog next week to find out how to make genealogy or family history photo books.

Planning a Genealogy Themed Family Reunion

Summer is family reunion season- a time to bring together family members that share the  roots and branches of the same family tree.  But WHO do those roots represent and how deep do they go? 

A family reunion is the perfect place to share the family history and genealogy of your own family tree.  Here’s ten tips to help you plan a genealogy themed family reunion.

1.   Make a Wall or Poster Sized Family Tree

To put your family history into perspective print a large wall chart of your genealogy. A professional source for printing your family tree is http://www.ancestryprinting.com/.  They specialize in printing genealogy charts and offer several different formats.  Hang the chart in a central location at your reunion and watch as family members explore their heritage in a way that is easily understood.

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2. Hold a Genealogy “Church”

Give a family history presentation about one of your ancestors each year.  These shouldn’t be long, boring presentations, but  stories and pictures  of your ancestors’ life and history.   Highlight an ancestor each year and before long family members will have a repertoire of family stories they can recite.

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3. Serve Food from Your Homeland

Serve food from your “homeland”.  If your roots go back to Scotland serve scones or shortbread or if you claim Ireland as your homeland serve an Irish stew.

4. Share Photos

My brother, Scott, has become the official family photo organizer.  He has worked with our parents to categorize and label photos from our families history.  He makes these photos available on online storage sites such as Flickr.  You can ask family members to bring their old, historic family photos to the reunion.  Be sure photos are labeled with the date and location the photo was taken.  A reunion is a great place  to identify the people in photos.  Ask someone to bring a scanner and laptop computer with CD burner, then set up a scanning table and create a CD of everyone’s photos or sign up to have photos printed at a later date.

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5. Play a Genealogy game

Create games using game show themes such as “Wheel of Ancestors” or “Family Feud”.  Ask questions to test your families’ knowledge of their heritage.  Make a crossword puzzle, coloring book or word search to help our family learn about their ancestors.

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6. Heritage Cookbook

Collect family favorite recipes.  Include a little history about the recipe and why it’s a family favorite.  Use a professional cookbook printing service or put together your own book at a local copy store.

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7. Family History Skits & Re-enactments

Using stories from your own family history, act out fun family stories and experiences.  Everyone in the Stewart family knows the story of Aunt Ann and the banana because we acted it out during our family history church.

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8. Tour Family Homestead or Cemetery

If your family reunion is held near where the family originated, then schedule a trip to the old family homestead, church or cemetery. You may also want to hold your reunion near the family home or in the town where one of your ancestors were born, raised, married or buried.

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9. Involve the Kids

Get children involved in building your family tree by using Family Reunion Helper’s “Super Sleuth” Challenge which guides children through the process of discovering their family history.  The challenge is part of the “Family Heritage”  reunion theme.  Create a coloring page of your family crest for children to color or help them dress in authentic costumes from the country their ancestors originated from.

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10. Life Histories

We value the life stories of our ancestors so much. I wish I could say that all of our family are keeping wonderful descriptive journals for their posterity but we aren’t, so for more that 20 years we have asked our family to take a few minutes to fill out a “journal” page at our reunion. On the journal page, they record their experiences from the past year and then Grandma stores the pages in special binders.  Some day these journal pages can be compiled into family history books.

Questions that are typically asked on the journal page are- What is the best thing that happened to you this year? What is the saddest thing that happened to you this year? What was the best movie you saw this year? For a more complete list of questions and sample journal pages, please download Journal Page Printable.

Anyone who has worked on their family history knows how exciting it can be. The more information they discover about their ancestors, the more real these people become. By learning about ones ancestors, it helps us understand ourselves, our heritage and the roots and branches of our family tree.

Family Reunion in an Afternoon

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You want to have a family reunion but…

You don’t have a 3 day weekend for your family reunion.

You don’t think you can stand listening to Uncle George’s lame jokes  for an entire weekend.

You can’t stand the thought of feeding all those hungry people.

Planning all those games and activities is just too overwhelming.

In my family reunion presentations I tell people that ANYTIME you get together with your family can be a family reunion.  There are no rules that say you have to spend a certain amount of time with your extended family to make it an “official” reunion.

A typical family reunion will assemble grandparents, aunts and uncles and tons of kids that share the same surname for a meal, some games and activities and maybe even some genealogy discussion and if all you have is a Saturday afternoon in the park then start planning!

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Let’s look at a possible schedule for a possible family reunion in an afternoon.

Things to do in advance

Be sure to reserve your location if holding your reunion at a park or hall.  Ask family members to bring a sack lunch for the noon meal and make food assignments or ask everyone to bring a potluck dish for the evening meal.

Send out invitations

Include food assignments and items such as swim suits or softball equipment.  If you are planning to go swimming, golfing, bowling etc. include how much these activities will cost.

Choose a theme.  A family reunion doesn’t have to have a theme to be successful but creating a theme for a family reunion is a great way to interest people and make them more likely to attend. A reunion invitation that invites you to a “Prehistoric” reunion for Brontosaurs burgers is more interesting than an invitation that invites you  to a family reunion at “the park”. It also makes things more fun when it comes to being imaginative with food, games, activities, invitations and just about every other aspect of the reunion. 

10:30 Registration

Set up a registration table for attendees to receive a name tag and schedule of activities.  This is a great time to get family member’s phone numbers, email and home addresses.  Provide an activity  that family members can participate in while waiting for everyone to arrive.  Try a huge game of badminton or volleyball for the teenagers, sugar cookie decorating or a coloring page for the youngsters and printable Older Than Dirt Game for the older generation.

11:00  Ice Breaker getting to know you games.

  My favorite ice breaker game is DO YOU LOVE YOUR RELATIVE?

The group sits in a circle with room in the center.  The person that is “IT” does not have a chair and stands in the center of the circle. “IT” walks up to one of the people in the circle, points to someone and asks, “_________, do you love your relative?” The individual pointed to can say one of two things:

“Yes I love my relatives (everyone sitting in the circle must move to a new chair)

“No, I don’t love my relatives but I love everyone _____________________.” Fill in the blank with things like- everyone that is wearing green, everyone that likes chocolate, everyone that has a dog or everyone that wears glasses. (Only the people that meet the requirements move to a different chair.)

In both situations, the person that asks the question runs to sit on a chair. The person left standing, without a chair to sit on, is the new “IT”.

Family Reunion Helper has lots of fun Ice Breaker Games.  You will need to plan on playing two to three games.

12:00  Sack lunches and family photo

After lunch you will want to take a picture of your family.  It doesn’t need to be professional, just a record of who attended the reunion.

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1:00  Extra Curricular Activity

Arrange in advance for your family to go swimming, bowling, roller skating, hiking or a road rally scavenger hunt. Some families like to split up during this time so people can participate in several activities- some may go golfing while others shop or make a craft. This will be your major activity.  For some activities such as boating or visiting an amusement park you may need to schedule more time.

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3:00 Theme Activities Craft or Fund Raiser

If you have chosen a theme for your reunion now is the time to do some of those activities.  This is also the time to do any fund raising such as an auction or raffle.

4:30 Genealogy Spotlight and Business Meeting

Ask someone that is a good story teller to share an interesting story from your family history.  It is very important that this presentation appeal to all family members and includes pictures and props.  You may also want to take a few minutes to discuss any family business such as when and where to hold you next reunion.

5:00 Dinner

You may do a potluck dinner, a meal that reflects your reunion theme (dinosaur theme- Brontosaurus Burgers, western theme- chuck wagon beans etc.) Other simple meal ideas are a baked potato or taco bar, grilled burgers or have your favorite pizza place deliver a variety of pizzas.  Do not serve dessert at this time.

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6:00 Talent Show Free Time

This is the time to let family members share their talents.  Play Let’s Make A Deal to keep everyone interested between acts.

7:00  Wrap it Up

Serve dessert and thank everyone for attending your reunion.  You will be tired and ready to clean up and go home but some family members will want to hang around and visit.  Put them to work helping you clean up. 

The  Branson Family Reunion web site list five reasons to have a family reunion.  One reason it lists is “Tradition”. “Tradition should be a big part of your family.  Taking the time to come together and teach (in a fun way) the tradition of your family will keep it alive and strong.”  Although planning a reunion can be a lot of work bringing your family together, if only for an afternoon, can be a rewarding way to keep traditions alive.

 

Aunt MO

Helpful Hints for Building Your Family Tree

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Have you ever thought about your family tree and wondered which branch you fell from? Lots of people want to know more about their ancestry and past, but might not know where to start. The truth of the matter is that there are lots of ways to find out where you came from and what your relatives were like. It is not easy, but it is completely possible.

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Interview Grandpa

Talking with your older family relatives, and while you are at it, take down their information as well. While it’s not pleasant to think about these things, it is important to remember that they won’t always be around. Eventually, your children or your grandchildren are going to want to know where they came from as well. Ask your older relatives about their families and history. You can even use a tape recorder to document their thoughts. Can they remember anything about what their parents or grandparents did? At the very least, that will give you a good place to start.

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Discover Your Ancestry by Checking Official Records

Remember to hit the records as well. You can find paper records at the library and electronic ones online at ancestry databases. For example, looking up obits can give you a great deal of information about different people, their occupations, and their families.

 

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Check for old news articles that mention family members. You never know when someone did something important. The more research you do, the more there is to learn. Also look around for any old documents that your family may have kept. Are there journals, old year books, property deeds or any other paperwork in the attic from the people who came before you?

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Family Reunions- a Great Genealogy Resource

Perhaps the most information rich place to add branches to your family tree is your family reunion, especially those reunions that include extended family and branches of your family tree.  You can even get children involved in building your family tree by using Family Reunion Helper’s “Super Sleuth” Challenge which guides children through the process of discovering their family history.

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Consider having a family history or genealogy “church” during your reunion, a time where the family gathers together to learn about their ancestors.  Make sure presentations are done creatively and with enthusiasm  to keep the attention of the younger members of your family.  Some fun ideas for your family history church can be found at Family Reunion Helper.

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Keep Accurate Genealogy Records

When you have all of the raw information in front of you, don’t forget to record it. It is easy to get distracted by minutiae. Take a moment to write down what you learned, whether it is in a notebook or in a series of files online. Remember that you are also doing this for posterity, and the more effectively you archive your own efforts, the more likely it will be that your work is going to be useful for the people who come after you.

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Rewards from Building Your Family Tree

Building a family tree takes time, patience and work, but anyone who has delved into the history of their family knows that, the more information they discover about their ancestors, the more real these people become, and the more fascinating. Building your family tree is a wonderful way to join the past with the present and by learning about ones ancestors, it helps us understand ourselves, our heritage and the roots and branches of our family tree.