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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: From the Genealogist to the Impossible to Please

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.
Do you have that person you have to buy a gift for but whatever you get them, they won't like it.

Yeah, I have that relative. If you're a genealogist, you have some interesting options.

One of these gifts might actually not be a disappointment (I won't go so far as to say they'll like it).

Some of these gifts might fulfill the requirement to give them a gift but really be for you ('cause I don't know about you, but I don't like to waste money).

Some of these gifts might get you off the hook cheap, without seeming cheap (because not overspending is as good as not wasting money).

Here are my top suggestions of gifts from the genealogist, to the impossible to please recipient.

My first recommendation is a DNA test. This is a good gift in lots of different situations. For the impossible to please recipient, this could check off the first two boxes in my "might" list (not being a disappointment or being for you).

If this is for a relative, this can totally be for you. However, there's a good chance the person might not hate this gift.

On the other hand, be careful with this gift. Some people do NOT want to take a DNA test. They might really hate it.

If you are getting this gift just to fulfill an obligation to give, make sure you can use the test kit for someone else. Any of the testing companies will allow you to do this. Even if you entered the person's name when you ordered the kit, you can change it. You just need to know you have another candidate to use the test on.

I recommend getting your kit from FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA). Here's why.

  1. Cheapest everyday price on autosomal DNA tests (probably what you're ordering, called "Family Finder" at FTDNA).
  2. ONLY company offering the other two types of (currently) available genealogical DNA tests (Y and mt).
  3. Swab test. Some people can't manage the spit test required by AncestryDNA and 23 and Me. If this is a surprise (as many gifts are) this is probably the number one reason to go with FamilyTreeDNA.
  4. Excellent in-house analytical tools plus great third-party tools, available.
  5. Phasing of results (if you've had multiple relatives tested) plus, options to connect testees to people in your tree.
Here's the rundown on your other "big name" options. If you need this guide to pick a DNA test, stick with one of the big names. There are a few smaller companies that are good and then some that are a joke. Even if you pick one of the good ones, they won't be as good a choice if that's the only place you test.

My second choice is MyHeritageDNA. They have very competitive pricing, my favorite set of in-house tools, and speedy processing. Like FTDNA, they offer a swab test so it's a safe bet your recipient will be able to take the test. I often recommend MyHeritageDNA for people with lots of recent immigrants as this is one of their strengths as a company.

Third is the "big name," AncestryDNA. They have a huge database (i.e. lots of people tested with them so you're likely to get meaningful matches). However, their test is a spit test and their in-house analytical tools are almost non-existent. You can use great third party, tools, though.

23andMe only comes in fourth because the database is smaller and the learning curve is steeper. Like AncestryDNA, it's a spit test. If you want health testing along with ancestral information, choose 23andMe's "Health + Ancestry" test.

If you want to get multiple DNA tests for close relatives, you could get some FTDNA tests and some from the other companies, depending on your interests. You need to understand when you'd want to use a Y or mt test so you test those people through FTDNA. I'm regretting not having a recently deceased relative tested with FTDNA so I could add mtDNA.

My next recommendation is not a service I've personally used but I have considered it as a gift for my impossible to please relative.

StoryWorth is a service not just aimed at genealogists. I'd call it an oral history service but their core service is actually via email. This is a year long gift. That means it has the advantage of being an option for two years of gifting! At the end of the year, the stories are bound as a book.

StoryWorth has some flexibility which is what I like and why I'd recommend it. This would be a great gift for newlyweds or new parents as well as your older relatives you might want to capture stories from.

I was told about this by a colleague who grilled them at a genealogy conference. In addition to capturing the stories via email, she reported they offer the option of having the questions asked over the phone and the responses recorded. This might be a nice option for a relative that doesn't get out a lot and would enjoy the phone call.

Let's look at some less expensive options, now.

The only gift I've given to my hard to please relative that appears to be appreciated is a framed family tree. I simply ordered a print through Ancestry.com; they are partnered with MyCanvas.

My biggest problem was these are "posters" so there wasn't really a small size. The sizes are good for gifting but if you know your recipient doesn't have a lot of wall space, look for a different company. I framed the poster myself.

I've also given a smaller sized family tree to newlyweds. In that case, I bought a book of family tree charts and scanned one and filled it in digitally (I have horrible handwriting).

I had it printed at a local office store, hand colored it, and framed it myself. After all the research I had to do on the wife's family, I had to keep the cost down on the physical product (value of my services >$525, cost of the physical item <$20). I don't know that the newlyweds enjoyed this gift but the mother of the bride did (and I enjoyed the research).

The cheapest (monetary) option is to create your own "family history" book. You aren't going to be able to throw together a traditional written family history. You can quickly assemble a lineage (one line) 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. He wasn't hard to please but I knew this was the gift he'd enjoy the most. I ended up just printing it on my home printer (I was very strapped for cash).

This is similar to the types of books you'd produce from the service offered at Ancestry.com. If you have the money, a service will produce a much slicker looking product and offer you templates.

If you have your tree at Ancestry.com, that's going to be the easiest way to go, but there are similar books from many companies. Check photo companies that do photo books, you can use images of documents instead of just photos.

So there are my recommendations for gifts from the genealogist to the impossible to please. I actually hate to write a gift guide suggesting you give something that is really for yourself, that's not what giving is about. I know the reality is, sometimes you have that person in your life (because they're in my life).

What I love about a genealogical gift is sometimes the recipient surprises you and loves your gift. That doesn't usually happen with a scarf (even when it's handmade with love). I figure if you're facing the likely-hood of getting the gift back, give something meaningful they might love, but you'll be happy to get back.

If they do love any of the gifts suggested above, you can devise an encore for next year (analysis of the DNA results, do some research based on the questions they answered, add some generations to the tree or book you created).

Have you come up with an amazing genealogical gift for a hard to please recipient? Share your success in the comments?