top of page

How to use the holiday to work on your family tree

If your family is anything like mine, stories are endless during holiday gatherings. We eat, we laugh, we joke and we tell stories. In fact, the louder we tell them the better. I think we do that for effect; like the louder they are, the better they will be. You know the one when your cousins snuck out of the house down south and went to the Juke Joint? I know you've heard the tale told a thousand times, but there's loads of information about your family history in those stories. And if you've ever wanted to start your family tree and have been putting if off, the holiday is the perfect time to do start.

Gathering information through storytelling can be lots of fun and ensures your families history is passed on through generations. For instance, what town was the juke joint in? Who owned the juke joint? Who went? What are their siblings names? Who's parents dished out the punishment?

Lindsey Handley, Ph.D. currently runs an education startup in San Diego that focuses on Computer Science Education for kids, but over the past decade she put her research expertise to the test by uncovering her family's genealogy. She suggests:

Starting an account and invite your fellow family members so they are able to see the tree too. Ancestry allows you to put together the basic facts about your family that you are familiar with (your information, your siblings, your parents and grandparents, kids, etc.)

Sitting down with each of your family members individually, and continue to fill out your family tree based on what they know and remember. Remember you want to keep this fun and not make it feel like work. If you can, record the interactions with your smart phone so you can go back to the recording if there are any family stories you want to add to your tree later. Dr. Handley says, "In my experience, grandparents are critical here - your grandparents likely remember their own grandparents names and where they were from, and maybe even their great grandparents names!" Don't forget to ask about the siblings of grandparents and great-grandparents too, as sibling names and relative ages can help you find the correct census records later.


Take out the family photos. There are always stories to share when the big book of embarrassing photos comes out. This time when Aunt Sandra pulls out the big album, ask questions and take notes. And don't forget the family bible, there are usually obituaries and birth announcements stuck in between the folds that will lead you on a path to discovery.

Lindsey Handley, Ph.D. is the COO of ThoughtSTEM, LLC reach her at

Teri Washington is the Editor of HARVEST and has been voted as the best storyteller in her family.

35 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page