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7 Ideas to Turn Your Christmas Card into a Genealogy Keepsake

7 Ideas to Turn Your Christmas Card into a Genealogy Keepsake

It's almost mid-December, and I'm still staring at an unopened box of Christmas cards that I have the good intention of filling out and sending to family and friends. As the days fly by I worry that I'm never going to find the time. I love getting Christmas cards and I love everything about them from the newsy family letters to the cards that are handmade works of art. Receiving a Christmas card is special because it means someone has remembered me at a busy, hectic time of the year.

Christmas cards

Christmas cards are used to convey all types of information aside from the standard seasonal greeting. Duncan Hines, popularly known today as a boxed cake brand, was a real person who worked as a traveling salesman. His 1935 Christmas cards included restaurant reviews based on his travel. What started as a way to share his love of good food with family and friends evolved into a booklet, Adventures in Good Eating, that eventually was published in 46 editions.[1]

The annual greeting card is more than just a sign of the holidays. The Christmas card is the perfect vehicle for passing on family history to the non-genealogists in our families. Cards can provide a taste of family history at a time of the year when people are feeling especially nostalgic. The holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, are when people harken back to their childhood, remembering those family members who are gone and their living extended family. While eyes may roll when you try to recount your genealogical adventures at family gatherings, the humble Christmas card can provide a great alternative. Cards allow you to share information in small "bite-sized" chunks during a season when family members are most receptive.

I had a cousin who was passionate about genealogy for a few decades. Her Christmas cards included an annual letter detailing her latest family history discoveries, repositories she had visited, and what she hoped to find next. As an adult, I remembered those letters and they helped me locate her and eventually inherit her research.

So how can you add family history to your holiday greetings? Here are seven ideas:

  1. Write a family letter that includes information about your genealogical interest. What surnames are you researching? What do you have that you can share?
  2. Share a family story that you've learned from your research or that you know and should be shared.
  3. Include a vintage family photo that you want to make sure everyone has. Maybe a grandparent's wedding photo, a family reunion group shot, or mom's yearbook photo.
  4. Add a newspaper article about your shared ancestor.
  5. Tell the story of a family heirloom and then encourage others to document their inherited heirlooms.
  6. Provide the URL of your family history website, blog, or Facebook page. Encourage everyone to check it out and share their memories and photos.
  7. Include a photocopy of a family history document that provides information about an ancestor and then explain what it is.

Your enhanced family history-Christmas card doesn't need to include a lot of information. You know why some people like Twitter? It allows the writer to express succinct thoughts that take less than a minute to read. Consider that as you share family history in your cards.

I know it comes as no surprise when I explain to family history audiences that not everyone loves genealogy. But you know what? That's ok that not everyone loves genealogy. You do. And you never know when something you say or provide will influence someone in the future. Send out those holiday greeting cards but create something that is more than just a pretty card with well-wishes. Take a few minutes to provide a piece of family history that will be treasured long after the decorations are put away.


[1] Voss, Kimberly Wilmot. The Food Section. Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community. Lanham, Maryland: Rawman & Littlefield, 2014. P. 136


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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These are such terrific ideas! Hoping to find the time to give my two grandchildren a pic book of our numerous summer vacations together. Also review with them the few heirlooms I have. They will be the ones to inherit my records I’m sure. Thank you for all your news feeds.

2020 will be the 26th year I have written a letter to be included with my Christmas cards. I have saved each of the letters, which has come in handy when I needed to know something. I can go through the letters until I find the information I need.

I thought this would be about a way to preserve the cards you receive digitally. Almost the reverse of what you were actually conveying, lol. Thanks for sharing though.

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