19 June 2020

Recipe for a Father's Day Genealogy Project

It's time to turn your genealogy skills into a great gift.

You're the family tree nerd in your family, right? Then you're the best person to whip up a genealogy-based Father's Day gift. (If you can't give a gift to your dad, I'm sure there's a father in your family that you like a lot.)

Time's running out, so let's get to it.

Pull together every genealogy item you've found that includes your dad. These are your main ingredients:
  • Birth record
  • Census forms
  • Yearbook photos
  • Marriage documents
  • Photos throughout his life
  • Highlights of his accomplishments
Blend these ingredients together in a way that helps tell dad's life. I'm going to mix images from the list above into a Microsoft Word document. That way I can write detailed captions for each image. And I can write a few sentences between the images, telling the story of Dad's life.

Who could be better than a genealogist to make the perfect Father's Day gift?
Who could be better than a genealogist to make the perfect Father's Day gift?

With your ingredients gathered, whip up a timeline of Dad's major life moments. My dad's timeline would go like this. Think about how these types of events might relate to your dad.
  • Birth in Ohio (I can't get the document itself.)
  • Move from Ohio to New York (He's in the 1940 census in New York as a little boy from Ohio.)
  • Grade school graduation (I recently got photos of him with his diploma and his parents.)
  • High school graduation (Dad's Cardinal Hayes High School yearbooks are online.)
  • Move back to Ohio (I have photos of his family in Cleveland.)
  • Joining the U.S. Air Force (My dad was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, which is a big part of his identity.)
  • Marrying my mom (I've got images of the Bronx, New York, marriage license index in 1954.)
  • His bail-out as his jet plane started to break apart and crash (I have a copy of a newspaper article about his bailout.)
  • Vacations with his young family (My brother digitized our old family slides.)
  • His long succession of houses (Houses and moving are a big part of our family story.)
With your outline well-mixed:
  • Fold in dates and places
  • Knead each bullet point into a few sentences
  • Sprinkle in photos and document images to taste
I can't give my father a hard-copy of this collection in person. He lives too far away, and I thought of it too late! But if I build it in Word and save it as a PDF, I can email it to him.

Here's how a section of my dad's story is shaping up. It's not a lot of text because I think he'll enjoy the photos more.

Think through Dad's life and its milestones for a wonderful Father's Day gift.
Think through Dad's life and its milestones for a wonderful Father's Day gift.

Don't over-cook it. Don't stress out. Just start writing and finding images to use. The words will come to you.

It's a lot more satisfying than a generic Father's Day card, don't you think?


  1. Lovely idea...I might try with what I have, which isn't much. My dad was born in Poland - his birth record appears to have been destroyed during the war, all census information from those he would have been listed in is still protected, and my mum still has the other certificates - I haven't been able to digitize them yet as she and I are in different cities. Hopefully on my next visit.

    All that said - I'm going to have a go with what I do have. My dad has been gone almost 20 years, but it will still be nice to create something to honour him.

    1. That's sweet. Father's Day is a good reason to create one of these tributes, but they can and should be done for other family members, living or dead.