Summer Fun: Dreaming, Exploring, and Preserving

July 13, 2020

Written by: Shannon Combs-Bennett

The summer travel season is upon us. Do you have plans yet? I know I made plans months ago and can’t wait to get going, and doing, all the things I want to!

Whether you are planning a large trip or having a stay-cation make sure you take the time to explore your family roots too. Here are 5 ways to squeeze some family history fun into your summer time downtime.

1. Create a photo collage from summers past.

How many digital photos (or, gasp, print pictures) do you have which sit neglected?

Take an afternoon and make a photo collage of adventures from summer’s past. Not only will it be a great way to think about days gone by, but the really good ones will make excellent future presents.

Or heck, make holiday collages to switch out around your house any time of year! Using sites like Shutterfly or another Collage Maker (like BeFunky or PicMonkey) will make this task much easier.

2. Take a virtual trip through your ancestral towns

Who doesn’t love to travel? For many of us though things like money and time off from work get in the way of those aspirations.

Well, thankfully we can travel from our couch, in our PJs if we wanted to. Using Google Maps street view you can quickly, and easily, travel to many places and explore them.

I particularly like to do this when I find an address for an ancestor. Simply type in an address from a family letter, census record, school record, or even a utility bill and explore your ancestral neighborhoods.

Even better, map out where the family lived over a course of time. It can be an eye opener as you watch your family move around the county or the world.

3. Make ancestor trading cards for the younger (or young at heart) generations in your life

This might make you tilt your head sideways at the thought of ancestral trading cards, but bear with me.

I saw this done years ago for a friend’s family reunion and everyone loved them. Young kids got to see images of their ancestors and read a few fun facts about them. Plus the older attendees were able to share additional facts and stories as the cards jogged their memories about the people on the cards. They were a great ice breaker and keepsake all in one.

There are several Pinterest Boards set up for this activity as well as an excellent site called Big Huge Labs which allows you to upload pictures and turn them into high quality cards. Needless to say it was a great way to engage many generations at one time in family history.

4. Take the time to write about your heirlooms so others will know where they came from

There is never a good time to do things like this, but if you don’t who will? After my grandmother’s passing over 20 years ago, I remember my parents and their siblings talking about various items in the house. The stories and history poured out of their mouths.

Now I wish I had the presence of mind to have written them down or recorded them. Especially since many of those items are now in my home. I make it a point to set some time aside each month and make an entry into my family history files about any heirlooms I have not documented for those in the family who may get the item next.

This is very easy to do on a word processor or spreadsheet. Or you can even do it in your Footprint. Just take pictures of the object and then write about it. Some things you may want to record are:

• Item description
• Who owned it before you (everyone)
• History and age of the object
• Any special care instructions

5. Document your life, since you are the absolute best person to do that

If you don’t journal that is ok (but if you do high five!). You don’t have to.

However, I do want to encourage you to document your own life. Seriously! You are the one who is living it, and there is a person (yet to be born) who will sing your praises if you take the time to compile information on your life.

Nothing personal. I mean we don’t need to know every detail about your life. But enter stories into your Footprint from time to time, or maybe fill a small notebook with facts and tid-bits about your life.

There are lots of writing prompts and fill in journals you can find which can help you tell your story. Think about how nice it would be to spend the afternoon outside with a cold drink relaxing and writing about an amazing experience you had.

I hope you get out there and make the most of the next few months by trying a few!

Shannon Combs-BennettShannon Combs-Bennett is the Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist and Education Chair for NextGen Genealogy Network. She writes and lectures on a variety of topics from genetics to methodology and is contributor to Family Tree Magazine / University.