Ideas for Family History Christmas Gifts or other Occasions

Here’s a list of family history gift ideas you can make or prepare for your loved ones:

Digitize old home videos and make a set or copy for each child.

Make chronologies / timelines of each family member’s life.

Write a personal letter to each child about how you love them and what they mean to you.

Give copies of ancestral photos, framed and ready to display. Include a short history of that person with the photo, or on the back.

Share memory stories, typed and in a nice book (you can add to this each year).

Family Calendars (large, full color, easy to make from Costco for $19.99)
They have templates you drop your photos into and you can add extended family birthdays, anniversaries, scriptures, etc. It’s simple and easy to make.

School Class Pictures in a 5×7 album, year by year for each child.

Organize and copy baby calendars, or lists of cute things each child said–give to child when older.

Think of a meaningful item significant to an ancestor and give one to each child with a
story of why it’s significant. I did this one year, giving each of my kids a Harmonica with the following story:

This is a story about my mother, Grandma Grace:
When Grandma was a young school girl, they lined everyone up to decide which music class they should go into. They were each asked to sing something. The teacher then divided the children in to two groups: those who could sing well, and those who couldn’t. The singers got to go to a singing class, and the rest had harmonica lessons. My Mom was told to go with the harmonica players. They told he she couldn’t sing well.
When my Mom was a little girl she needed to have her tonsils out. Her uncle, Doc Pugmire, came to their home to do it. He spread a sheet on the kitchen table and that’s where the operation took place. While he was removing her tonsils, the knife accidently cut out the little hangy thing at the back of her throat that helps you sing beautifully.
She always said she couldn’t sing well because of that, although she could carry a tune and her singing sounded fine to me. But because of that, she got to learn to play the harmonica. She got really good at it too. She got so good that people hired her to give them harmonica lessons.
When my Mom died, one of the things I wanted most from her things was her harmonica. She taught us how to play it and I’ve always loved being able to carry music in my pocket. My Mom’s favorite harmonica was just like this one. They make them in Germany. It’s called an Echo Harp. I think they make the most beautiful sound of any harmonica I’ve ever heard. I hope you will have fun learning to play this instrument and I hope it will go with you on all your trips and camp outs and outings.
I hope you will always remember Grandma Grace as you enjoy learning to make beautiful music with this harmonica!

Scrapbooks or photo collections from the year.

New Journal books for the young ones to write in with an introduction or letter from you (and a prize the next year if they fill it!).

There’s a story called “Grandfather’s Gold Watch” by Louise Garff Hubbard that would go nicely with a gift if you had something like that.

Give your children a particular children’s book that has special meaning in your family or from their childhood.

Think about things that were meaningful to your kids when they were small (like Pooh Bear, or a particular movie, or music or stories, or storytellers). When your kids have kids, return some of these previous generation favorites to them to use with their kids.

Record stories for grandkids who live far away so they can hear your voice.

Keep track of cute things grandkids say and type them up for the busy mothers.

Put together a chronology of your Family Christmas letters and photos for each family member to have when they leave home. It’s a nice chronology of the family.

Think about your family traditions and what might be copied for each child when they leave the home. (We make a big deal about writing letters to Santa, and I have almost 20 years of those letters. I made color copies and put them into a booklet for each child.)

Photo Christmas Ornaments

Miniature frames filled with family photos, or glass balls with photos attached

Family Cookbook or Recipe Cards

Frame original recipe cards from your mother for the cooks in the family

Headstone Photos or Rubbings

Make a fun collage

Tribute to a Special Ancestor

Collect testimonies of grandchildren for grandparents or visa versa.

Send care packages to family members serving missions or living out of the country.

Make a memory quilt or quilt for a child going off to college.

Make some kind of Family Tree Art for your home. There are many ideas online.

Here are ideas sent to me from my family history students:

My husband’s family has a simple tradition that helps preserve family histories. Each Christmas all the children send their parents a short 2-3 page (or more) summary of the year’s events along with a family picture. My mother-in-law then puts these in page protectors and into a family album. Some of the children make fancy scrapbook pages and others are quite simple. She has a divider for each of the children. It makes for a very nice, albeit abridged version, of the family’s yearly history.
Marianne McNeil

I put together a book of all the patriarchal blessings of all the deceased relatives in our family. I gave a copy to all my siblings. You have to start early because it took atleast 3 months to get them all mailed to me. It may be quicker now.
Kristen Peterson

A few years ago for Mother’s Day my mom gave me a framed picture with a mat that had spots for several pictures. She gave us pictures of six generations of women in our family. She listed each name and birth year.

Another thing she has done is make us a huge black binder labeled Low Family History. It has copies of all the personal histories of our ancestors she could get her hands on. Every so often she updates something and says, “this is for your family history book.”

I have given kids a page that says “100 Things I Like” and had them list all their favorite things at this point in their lives (colors, sports, food, movies, books, friends, seasons, school classes, music, etc.) This would be fun to do every few years.

I have some pages of all the houses we have lived in (with addresses and prices), all the cars we’ve had, couches, and computers. I also have a signature page for each of the kids. They re-sign their names every January.

Finally, I have pages of a family picture every single year since we got married.
Thank you so much for working on this Christmas idea list!
Kristin Sampson

I am sure everyone has or is aware of the books that can be personalized for individuals, events, etc. Via Shutterfly and many other companies. I don’t know how to put them together online, but of course my kids do. Also in a similar category, those personalized family calendars. (you can also enter family events and experiences on the calendar. ) Giving you pictures and words about the year. I have been the recipient of several. They are priceless to me.
Ann has talked about taking pictures of misc subjects of interest. A couple of summers ago my daughter (unbeknownst to me). Took pictures in our yard of flowers, vines, our pond, and several of that seasons birds. Now this snippet in time has been recorded on pictures. It will outlast me!

Here’s my next Hint to my kids(for a gift for me as well as for the other family members): Each year I would love a picture collage (many places do them, Costco is one) from each of our children, of pictures of the highlights for that year. (first day of kindergarten, graduations, marriages, baptisms, school plays, sport events, funerals, births, ordinations, new home, travel). On it the year i.e. Hawkes Family 2012 . Not sure if having captions (identifying event and person) is possible. My thought is they would need to be at least 11X14, or even small poster size. All of those details are personal preferences.
Joan Kempton
My mother-in-law enjoys giving Christmas gifts that have family history value. One year she took an old wool bathrobe, red and green plaid, that had belonged to my father-in-law and made teddy bears out of it. It was named “Lorin Bear” after my father-in-law. She gave one to each of the five children and their families. What a great memory! Lorin wore that bathrobe when he was taking care of sick kids in the night, and when my husband sees that fabric it still reminds him of being loved and comforted by his dad. That same Christmas, my mother-in-law also cut up the satin slip that went with her wedding dress and made each family a “Cleo Angel” to hang on the Christmas tree.

For several Christmases we have received chapters of my mother-in-law’s life history. For example, the story of how my in-laws met at “The Lucky Clover Dance,” or the stories of the many businesses (my father-in-law is a real entrepreneur) they have started and owned over the 59 years of their marriage. One year, she wrote her testimony and thoughts on why the gospel is important to her and had my father-in-law do the same. They made a nice bound book out of these essays and presented one to each of their descendants.

One thing that I did for my parents fiftieth wedding anniversary was to make them a “Golden ABCs” book. This was a scrapbook-type book, with lots of pictures and also some descriptive text. We found some aspect of my parents’ lives that went with each letter of the alphabet. Some entries were pretty obvious–“C is for Children” and “G is for Grandchildren” with pictures of all their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, or “L is for Logan–the temple where they were married and also where they have served as ordinance workers for several years. But we had to get more creative with other letters–like “U is for Udders,” because my dad was a diary farmer or “Z is for Zzzzzzz”–with a picture of my dad asleep in his Lazyboy. He got up so early to milk and spent such long hours working on the farm that he always had a nap at lunchtime–or on the stand in sacrament meeting–or wherever. My niece has used this format to make picture histories for her older brother, her mom, and her dad, and it’s surprising how many different aspects of someone’s life you can include just by using the ABCs. Warning: This is not a quick project, but it’s a lot of fun!
Shirleen Saunders

1 – Create a “Book of Faith Experiences” where each posterity member is invited to share a story that strengthened their testimony. This is a call for a specific experience and can be something simple. Handwritten or typewritten – both have a place! We gathered the stories and gave the book to grandparents with this note in the front:

The great gift you have given us
is your faith in the restored gospel
of Jesus Christ.

We want to give back in a small way
some of our own experiences of faith
and how the gospel has changed our lives.

Together we hope to form a strong link
in our part of the eternal family chain.

Your posterity deeply loves you
and treasures your example
of pure testimony and radiant love.”

2 – Take pictures of heirloom or meaningful items around the home and interview the owner of their stories and significance. Put the picture and the story together on one page to create a collection of “Heirloom Stories.”

3 – Collect favorite family recipes and create a Family Recipe Book. This might have a section for ancestor recipes that have been passed down, another section for favorite growing-up recipes from each family member, and other section for a current favorite for each person in the “married” families. A picture of each person with their recipe is a great addition!

4 – We had an interesting family photo taken one year of all our hands overlapping in a kind of star-shape with the words, “Family…a gift that lasts forever.”

5 – We took a 4 generation picture of great-grandma, grandma, mom, and daughter, showing a maternal chain. A treasure!

6 – My sister-in-law made a quilt for my struggling daughter. It has a design of a forest of trees, and on each tree was embroidered the name of a women in our family history tree. In the very center of the quilt was my daughter’s name, showing she was surrounded by loving strength.

7 – Paint one wall of a toy room with a mural of a family tree – a literal giant tree picture with names of our 4-generations of ancestors. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve always dreamed about doing this!

8 – Our tradition at New Year’s time is the family “Top 10 Stories of the Year.” Between Christmas and New Year’s, we have a paper out where everyone can jot down happenings they remember – nothing is too insignificant! On New Year’s Eve, we all vote for our top 5, each one having more weighted points. (Note: often parents’ votes count more!) No one knows the voting outcome until the “grand unveiling.” We, as parents, tally the votes and write fun titles for the stories on butcher paper. For example, last year’s top story was about our trip to Kentucky. We wrote: “Dark holes and fast cars! Kentucky “whirlwind” trip!” – this is much more fun then just saying we went to caves, visited a corvette factory, and experienced 2 tornado warnings. However, afterwards, we do type up an explanation and more details of the event. On the butcher paper, we include every event listed, so this means many honorable mention stories. We keep the the long scroll of butcher paper hanging on the wall for a few weeks. It’s a great recap of the year! We have found that life is full of happenings and the seemingly ordinary becomes meaningful.
Cathy Duffin

Here is something we have done for our kids for Christmas. For each of our kids, when they get married, Frank has made a wedding video for them. He has taken almost every picture that we have taken of them and included these in the video. So they have a family history wedding video. He also includes the spouse’s pictures too.

Then he got the idea to start converting all our VHS videos into digital DVD’s. So, he has been slowly downloading all the important events that we have recorded on VHS videos (we have “38” two-hour @ videos) onto DVD’s. It takes a lot of time. I think we are only up to #8, but that will be the project for this year, if I can get my act together.

Our kids love watching these, and as we have almost 16 grandchildren now, our grandchildren love watching them. We did a lot of fun things with our kids while they were growing up, and filmed many fun events. That was our form of family history back then. So, this is my idea to share. Just another way to preserve our family’s history!
Kathy Edmunds

Hi Ann
After hearing about your great idea for a Christmas Eve gift, I’m planning to give our kids a fun booklet with all of our past Christmas Card Pictures and letters (color copies).
Leslie Laemmlen

This is a Family Tree Project I have done with Activity Day girls and with Cub Scouts. Both groups made these for their families for Christmas. I gathered the names from the kids moms and dads. I had each child write their names, the names of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents on leaves (women on one color and men on another) and then they put together their tree. I love their 8 year old handwriting! Ours our displayed in our family room.
This one was done by my son when he was 8. It is in a frame from the dollar store.
Kimberly Lohner (see photos)

I’m not sure that this idea fits in with the family gifts for Christmas, but it goes along the lines of keeping family history alive for our children. Our Christmas tree is a Memory tree. Through the year we are on the lookout for a Christmas ornament or two that represents something that happened to our family that year – sometimes its something from a vacation we took (seashells from Florida, a carved wooden buffalo from Cody, WY), or an item that represents a significant accomplishment (a Utah Aggie ornament for a daughter graduating from Utah State). We also have collected items that represent our family heritage – a Hallmark ornament in Italian to represent our Italian ancestors, straw ornaments representing our Norwegian ones, the last remaining gingerbread ornament from my husband’s and my first Christmas tree 26 years ago, Mr and Mrs Egghead from my husband’s childhood tree that were given to us by his mother. We also have some family pictures to hang on the tree as well. I write the date and the place we got the ornament somewhere on it to help us remember. The best part is when we pull out the ornaments each year and the kids start reminiscing about each one and start telling stories that they remember from that event. Though it is a hodge podge looking tree, it is beautiful to me as it is a reminder of all the good times we’ve had together and the love we have as a family.
Kim Running

One thing I did with my Mom that was fun to do and nice to have. Not exactly a gift, but something nice to have. She has a lot of articles of clothing, quilts, recipes, kitchen utensils, pieces of art, furniture, etc. She has so many things and she knows what they all are and where they came from, but we can’t keep them all straight. I was afraid that after she died we wouldn’t remember exactly which bowl came from my great-grandmother, etc. So, I took photos of everything of interest or value in her home and slipped the photos in a photo book that has a space for her to write, and then she wrote about the origins of each of them. That way we don’t have to stress about remembering the most important things!
Natalie Tanner

I wrote a children’s book about both my father and mother, as I most desperately want their memory kept alive even in the minds of little ones in future generations. Naturally, I had to narrow the focus to make it work. I chose to concentrate on my father’s gift for getting along with everyone in life, even in a difficult business. He goes by “Gene”, so the name of the book is “Mr. ConGENEiality”. Tammy Stephan is my sister,and she has a copy if you want to see it, or I do have a copy printed from my computer which I no longer need. Fortunately, my son in law is an artist. He illustrated it. My nephew is a graphic designer. I had it printed, hard bound and a stitched binding so that it would be sure to last. In the back of the book, I included 2 pages of biographical info, as well as some photos which pertained to the story or were just to good to leave out.
Kristie Harker

When I saw this I realized my gifts to my family this year were a family history gift. I painted wooden hangers pretty colors and then printed out on clear labels using funky fonts the sayings my Dad is known for, putting one label on each hanger. I gave each niece and nephew and bro & sis-in law a set tied together with a cord that had a big paper tag saying “Grandpa’s words to remember when you leave the house”. His saying are: “Keep the commandments’, “Remember who you are”, Work Hard Work Smart, and “I love you”. They were a hit!
Carolyn Colton

I made a journal birthday book for my son’s 38th birthday a couple of weeks ago. I went through an old journal I had written in those hectic days when he was a little boy and copied entries that included him to give him a little glimpse of himself as a child in our family. Now that he’s the father of 4 little ones, some of whom are the same age as he was, I thought it would be special for him. I also included some special artwork he had done, little things he had written, a report card, a couple of pages of copied pictures,etc. and a special front page letter to him from me along with a scripture in 3 Nephi I felt impressed to add to the front. I put everything in page protector sheets in a 3-ring binder with an old family picture of us when he was little blown-up and put into the front of the binder. How excited I was to do this for him – adding things as I felt inspired in the process! I will now do this for my other children on their upcoming birthdays and then add later journal entries in the coming years.
Marina Spence

I didn’t make this quilt, but I am making one kind of like it.
I plan to have this completed for my mother-in-laws 80th birthday.
Thanks for the wonderful ideas that you send.
Carolyn Webber

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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