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Meet the Author
I'm Jennifer, and I'm an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. For over ten years I've been a professional genealogist. I started researching my own family nearly 30 years ago. Like many of you, I started as an Occasional Genealogist. I had to squeeze research in while in school and while working full-time. Then I got my first genealogy job and for awhile, it was genealogy all the time. Now I have two kids. I do other people's genealogy constantly but my own? Coming up with ways to do great genealogy, despite all the interruptions, is now mandatory.

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Gift Guide: DIY Gifts from the Crafty Genealogist

This post contains affiliate links (I know you're shocked, a gift guide with affiliate links). 
This is one of a series of gift guides for specific recipient types or gifters. 
Some suggestions are reproduced rather than making you follow a series of links.

I'm not sure a crafty genealogist really needs suggestions. Gifting should be pretty easy for you! I'm not going to get too specific because there are lots of ways to create some of these gifts or a similar gift. I'll give you some ideas I've come up with and then you should run with it.

Crafty Genealogist Gift Guide

Quick and Easy

I'll start with a gift I've made and given.

Photo Serving Tray

Even the non-crafty can make a serving tray from a picture frame. I like a tray as a conversation piece when you have guests rather than just giving a framed image (although, my recipient actually removed the handles and hung the picture on the wall!).

  • Buy handles to attach to the frame.
  • Caulk the glass to prevent stray liquids from ruining the image.

The "picture" I selected was actually a Civil War map (found at the Library of Congress website). It showed the location of two of my ancestors' homes and was an area the recipient had spent time at as a child.

I ordered a photo print of the map just like any other photo.

Here are some options to consider. Pick what fits with your image and skill set.

Colorizing Photos (multiple uses)

[UPDATE: I wrote this post back in 2016 and the ideas are still relevant but now there's an even better colorization option out there. I'm leaving the original suggestions but I now hit just one place if I want to colorize, enhance, or animate an old photo...]

MyHeritage has a selection of photo enhancement tools that are amazing. This includes a colorization option, an enhancement option, AND an animation option. Obviously, the animation option means you have a digital file so that won't help if you're printing photos but it is amazing.

Here's an example of one of our family photos colorized at MyHeritage.

family photo colorized at MyHeritage

You can adjust some features within the photo options and MyHeritage keeps improving these features. Below is the original colorization of my grandfather's photo compared to the latest model (July 2021 at the time of writing).

MyHeritage February 2020 colorization model example MyHeritage July 2021 colorization model example
Original Colorization Model Latest Colorization Model (July 2021)

I know this is an Army uniform so I know what color it should be (some options made parts of it look more blue like an Air Force uniform which always made me wonder about the rest of the colors chosen). I also know what color my grandfather's eyes were and the original model had them a brown or hazel and they should have been grayish blue. This latest option is much closer.

Obviously if you colorize a picture that is old enough no one living will remember the person this is a far more minor issue but for more recent photos, you might want to tweak the settings to find colorization that looks the most like the person.

[Below are the original suggestions for coloring a photo in case MyHeritage doesn't work for you.]

Colorize an image. I've done this digitally for items like maps and photos. There are online "colorizing" options for black and white photos but they aren't always great. Below is an example from colorize-it.com. You can see the colors are sort of "lumped" on rather than matching the subjects in the photo (some photos look great when run through this fast and free tool).


This next example is a blurry photo (for my "Finding Her Maiden Name" mini-course) but it shows two strengths of coloring. I did this in Photoshop Elements.

This next set of photos shows the result from colorize-it.com versus what I did in Photoshop Elements. The automated coloring was too much like a sepia tone applied rather than colorizing. However, it took quite a long time to color this image (more than the example above) because there was little contrast.

MyHeritage colorization
colorize-it.com Photoshop Elements (manually) MyHeritage Colorization,
enhance, and repair

After finishing the manual example, I started to think I could hand color a copy of a photo, faster. I haven't done this because you have to choose the correct medium for the type of print and I'm not an artist so I don't know a lot about this.

I'm thinking Copic markers might be faster than digitally coloring a photo. Copic markers don't cause water-based inks to run which is why I think they might work. You can use them to color items printed from your home printer (professional printing uses different inks which is why this isn't a simple answer). If you've hand-colored a photo, leave a comment with any suggestions.

[The link to the Copic markers is to a set I think might be a good selection for photo coloring. I've purchased my markers a la carte with coupons at the local arts and craft store which might be the most affordable method.]

I know there are ways to transfer an image to various surfaces. Once again, not a skill I've tried and I'm not sure that would qualify for "quick and easy," but if you know how to do it, go for it! I once stenciled a wooden tray and it came out pretty nice considering I had never done stenciling (this was not genealogy related). If you are doing an image (maybe a family tree or a map) instead of a portrait, this might be another option.

Crafty without 100% Handmade

This can be a very nice looking gift (without you needing professional-level craft skills).

MyHeritageDNA offers a nifty "Family Discovery Kit" which includes a DNA test, MyHeritage access, plus a Project Life Scrapbook and supplies.

This is a really nice presentation of a DNA kit as a gift.

You could just give this as-is or...

Family History Scrapbook

Use the DNA test and subscription to do the research. The crafty part comes in putting it in the scrapbook. The scrapbook (which comes with a keepsake box to up the, "look at this nice unique gift I got you" factor) is what you'd give as a gift.

MyHeritage Family Discovery Kit

You should realize you'd need to start months before the gifting occasion (it will take at least four weeks for your DNA results to come back. Currently, the included subscription is for three months so I'd allow three to five months, at least, to get the test results, do research, and assemble the scrapbook---of course, if it was me, it'd take a year, mostly to assemble the scrapbook with my schedule).

Cheap (and easy if the research is done)

Family Tree

A framed family tree is a classic "from the genealogist" gift. It might be the most economical choice, too.

I've given a smaller sized, framed family tree (as opposed to a poster size tree which will increase your printing and framing costs). I bought a book of family tree charts and scanned one and filled it in digitally (I have horrible handwriting, doing calligraphy/lettering would make a great gift if that's your talent).

I had it printed at a local office store, hand-colored it (colored pencils, I love this set and I learned how to use them a lot better from this Craftsy course), and framed it myself. After all the research I had to do, I had to keep the cost down on the physical product (value of my services >$525, cost of the physical item <$20).

Options for a family tree are possibly endless.

For my own home, I want to embroider my family tree. This is too time-intensive for me to consider as a gift but it might be different for you. If you're an artist, you can create the entire tree by hand. If you're a graphic artist, you can use those skills.

I've been considering having my Silhouette Cameo draw the tree and names on art paper and then hand color it. For a fast gift, I already have one  tree digitized in Adobe Acrobat with the name boxes set-up to be filled in. I have pre-colored trees (done in Photoshop Elements) or I can hand-color them.

As a note, I don't put anything but names on display trees. The reason is the majority of my research doesn't produce full dates and even when it does, I often find variations of the date. I don't want to feel the need to "correct" a date and heaven forbid I find a date is actually wrong after it's on a tree hanging on someone's wall!!!!!!! This will make creating a tree faster, too.

Interesting to Non-genealogists

Family History Book

A family history book is often the most appealing to non-genealogists. A tree may be interesting but doesn't highlight anything of particular importance or interest.

A family history book is not a "family history" in the sense of what you find in a library. These are text-heavy photo books. In fact, you can create these at companies selling photo books. Ancestry.com has built-in options if you have already created a family tree with them.

A traditional family history is a major undertaking so I'm not discussing that. You can quickly assemble a lineage (one line in one branch) and some interesting highlights. You can also just compile a few generations of the whole family with interesting highlights. I did this for my grandfather-in-law-to-be when I was in college and very short on cash. I ended up just printing it on my home printer (I was very strapped for cash).

The purpose of one of these books should be an interesting gift, not your well-documented research. You can decide what to do about citations. I usually opt for a format that requires minimal citations so I feel good as a professional but don't overwhelm the recipient.

One way to do this is to try and NOT provide a comprehensive family history. Include some type of family tree to use as a guide so people understand where in the family someone belongs. Then just hit the highlights.

It's o.k. to start a little farther back in the tree (not with the recipient) if they knew their parents and grandparents. This makes it easier for you, prevents the less gracious recipient from providing you with a string of "corrections," and is usually of more interest as it provides new information.

People are usually interested in what they didn't know so use that to your advantage, save time by skipping the known. Remember, we're talking about a gift, not the culmination of your genealogical life's work.

If you do an "analysis" of one image on a page, you can usually put a citation for the image without needing other citations. Don't be intimidated if you don't know what an analysis is. Simply explain what is in the image and why it's interesting. Don't go off on tangents which would require a lot of citations and the text will be clearer to the reader.

As an example, show a census record (not that exciting to look at) but highlight what interesting facts it tells. It might be the family lived at an address that is now something well known or of interest to the recipient. Maybe the neighbors are of interest. Maybe you're just pointing out an interesting occupation.

Also, consider using modern maps with historic maps (I create overlays in Google Earth but you may not have time to learn to do that, PicMonkey or any tool you know how to use is fine). With photos, point out something interesting beyond just the name of the people in the photo. This could be as simple as a photo being the only one of an older relative or something funny in the picture.

Check out The Occasional Genealogist Instagram feed for some examples. Since my Instagram followers don't really care about my relatives, I point out something else about the photo (I try and select photos that provide something interesting).

Order it Online

Photo Gifts

Today, there are many options if you want to have an image printed on an object. As a genealogist, you may have old photos or funny documents. Maybe you want to digitally craft an image to have printed on an item (this includes a famly tree).

I love ordering fabric from Spoonflower. You can have custom fabric to create a quilt or other sewing project. You could also create the fabric to give to a crafty relative. I've ordered various types of products from Zazzle. They have shirts, plates, cards, stamps, and hundreds of other products. Vistaprint is known for business printing but can just as easily be used to make paper-based gifts (as well as offering promotional items that could be gifts).

Printed Forms and Charts

If you're giving a gift to a non-relative, maybe they would like to start researching their own family. You could create a "get started kit" using your favorite tools. If you have to order the items online, this makes it easy to mail (have it sent directly to them).

Wrap It Up

This is just a sampling of the crafty ideas you could give based on your genealogical research. It doesn't really matter how experienced you are as a genealogist (and even if you're not artistic or crafty, there are options like the ones under "order it online"). A family history based gift can be incredibly unique if you create it yourself. It may even become part of the collection of a future genealogist.