Now that I've started seriously considering out family history, it's becoming evident how neglectful I've been for many years. I wish I had taken a few hours when my grandparents and my father were alive to record their recollections, track down and annotate family photos and to find some means of keeping their memories going for future generations.
Too late now, but I have held on to various items that have been handed down to me, and I'm very lucky that my mother and mother-in-law are both still around and reasonably healthy in their 90's.
With the wonderful technology around now, it's so easy to make video/audio recordings of our elders' recollections, to scan, enhance and preserve images from the past and present, and to research and connect with others all over the world to expand on our knowledge of our family.
I have begun scanning, enhancing, enlarging and printing old photographs so that our older family members can comment on them before we lose the background knowledge. It's also fun to share the scans via email, Facebook etc. with other family members.
There are several items that I have in my possession which need to be photographed and written about, too, to add to our family history. This got me thinking about all the things we throw away so readily when we're finished with them. In the past, everyday items were harder to come by, so they were more valued - they were mended, recycled, handed down...
The items we have in our lives now are very easy to take for granted, but think about several generations from now: which items will be a novelty then, and will tell a story about your life and times?
It's hard to predict at times, but think about what's significant to your life now, and how can you pass on an impression of how the item fits into your life? Can you take a photo of it in context, write about your daily life and/or special occasions, keep the item or part of it to hand down?
Here's a list I've made of items that you may find around you house (or that older relatives may have) which may help to tell a story and which may be worth recording/keeping:
You can probably add a lot more to the list; it's just a start to get us thinking. Make sure you have recordings/notes about each item if possible, so that it will be a personal part of your family history.
If you're making a family tree with photos (e.g. on Ancestry.com), there will be some people you don't have photos for. I hate having lots of those anonymous silhouette icons for people on my tree, so I usually add even a small screenshot of a death notice or other document rather than a "blank" icon. I can always replace it if I get a photo from somewhere.
I found that I had quite a few people on my tree who had died as babies. I needed a way to (a) acknowledge them - no photos or anything were available for their short lives, not even a photo of a headstone on a grave - and (b) indicate on my tree that they had no further family or facts to research. So I created an icon with a simple cross, on a pink or blue (or marbled) background, and added their age at death. I also made some floral etc. icons for some of the adults.
I went a bit further and made a whole range of crosses with babies' and children's ages in case others wanted them, and I made more floral icons and some icons with miscellaneous themes- e.g. pictures of shamrock, thistle, angel.
These are available for your free personal use here:
Here are links to the albums for the icons:
Here's a cheap way to make a wall chart: open your family tree on your computer, take screenshots of each section of your chart (label clearly 1.Top; 2a.Mid_Far Left; etc), print onto A4 paper, then trim and stick together with craft glue or invisible tape.
These were made for a family reunion and proved very popular. I asked for photos beforehand so I could include photos of as many people as possible of current and recent generations.
I did one chart for each of 2 grandparents and another combined chart for the other 2, as they had fewer siblings and cousins. I also did separate charts for each family of lower generations who would be attending.