3 Ways to Get Your Family Engaged in Genealogy

Written by: Gael Gilliland, Founder of The Legacy Recorder.



The genealogy journey can be lonely and desolate. Sifting through dusty documents and clicking on hundreds of “family name leads” only to end up at dead ends can be exhausting and soul crushing. What if I told you, it didn’t have to be that way?

You can enjoy your research and still connect with people. I’m talking about including your family. Include your family in your research, getting to know your ancestors, and working together to record your family’s story. There are more than three ways to do this, but this is a great place to start.


First of all…Ask them!

This sounds so simple, and yet, I think it is the most overlooked. When you start on a project and you are really excited, it’s easy to talk about and ask people to work with you. In the beginning, your helpers may be just as excited. That may be true for a while, but soon the shine wears off and they move onto other projects.

Let your family know you need them. It’s easier for someone to say yes to your desperate pleas, if you give them a specific task you need completed. For instance, go beyond the usual frantic “help me!” phone call and try out “Hey, can you help me find great aunt Mildred? I know she was born in 1902 but I can’t find anything else.” I think you will see a difference in their answers. At the Legacy Recorder, we encourage family to participate at every level. Give them the opportunity to make a constructive contribution to your research.


Next…Make it a game!

Work is always more fun when you approach it with lighthearted antics. Watch out though, I’ve seen some families get really competitive using these tactics. These are a few ideas to get you started. Use your imagination and watch your story take shape while having a great time.

  • Genealogy scavenger hunt
  • “I Spy an Ancestor”
  • A simple race of who can find great grandma first

Playing a game to get to the end of your family tree will be a wonderful memory all on its own. Be prepared for laughs, tears, and family bonding moments. Make your genealogy journey a fun experience and you will attract the whole family.

When I get families involved in the Legacy Recording process, everyone learns something and has the opportunity to ask new insightful questions. By making them comfortable with a lighthearted approach, I’m able to set the tone of how the process will go. This gives everyone a chance to breathe a sigh of relief and get ready to have fun learning about their loved one. Using a game may help your family feel more comfortable and give them the opportunity to ask the hard questions.


Finally…Know your genealogy why!

Why are you researching your genealogy? I believe it is imperative you are clear on why you are digging through your family’s past. I know why it’s important and I imagine you do too. Being able to articulate your “why” to your spouse, parent, or another family member is imperative to securing their active support.

When you know your genealogy ‘why,’ you will be able to see what the end result might look like and remind yourself of your goals when the going gets tough. Knowing why you are on this journey will help your family engage with you and find their own genealogy why.

Possible genealogy whys:

  • Just for fun – A summer or winter project to help pass the time. Filling out the family tree a little bit more is the end game
  • Genuinely interested & want to know more – You want to go beyond filling out the family tree with just the basics.
  • Dedicated Family Genealogist – This is your gig, your hobby, your passion project. You want to know everything there is to know about your family history.

Whatever your ‘why,’ know that you engage in a noble effort and I applaud you for researching and recording your family’s history. Part of the Legacy Recorder is encouraging people to record their own history, every day. Thereby, making the work of future family historians that much easier. While you are digging through your family’s past, don’t forget to write down your own story.

Happy History Hunting!

Gail Gilliland – Wandering writer working my way through the craziness of living life and finding purpose. My 3 children give me daily inspiration and a few gray hairs. Being outside, discovering new places, and singing are a few of my favorite things. Millennial mother to the next generation of creatives. Founder of The Legacy Recorder. Find them on Facebook.

What are ways that you can think of to get your family involved in genealogy and family history? Please comment below, we would love to hear from you!

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