A family member contacted me last week to ask if I had ever made a family tree for our family. Did I have enough information to make one to share with the family? I had done one once but had received a little more information from an older cousin since then. I decided to download a free template and do it again.
I searched through a file drawer for the family genealogy information and proceeded to fill out the template similar to the one shown above. As I wrote the name of each parent, grandparent and great-grandparent, flashes of what they looked like and stories I knew about them came to mind. Some I remembered because I had known them while others were known to me only through family stories and photos.
If you work on a family tree for your own family, you will probably have the same experience. You'll see your grandmother in her kitchen. Maybe a vision of your grandpa milking cows by hand will flit across your mind. You might remember a great-grandparent being cared for by other family members. A funeral you attended for one of the grandparents could have made a deep impression on you. I only attended the funeral of one of my grandparents. I was 12 and I can picture the funeral home, the room where the funeral was held, the casket and, most clearly, my father shedding tears for a mother-in-law he loved dearly.
That memory flashback is enough to be the basis for a family story or even a personal essay. Seeing my dad cry was a new experience and it left a forever moment with me.
As the stories or thoughts come to you while writing names on your family tree, jot down some notes. You'll be able to write a new family story or use the situation and/or person in your other writing--even basing a fictional character on someone in your background. We write what we know and who do we know better than our own families?
Some of our family members are beloved and always will be. Others may have irritated you for one reason or another and you will most likely harbor a bit of resentment toward them forever. Just because they are family, there is no rule that says you must feel equally about every one of them.
If you've never filled out a family tree template, give it a try. I think you'll be surprised at the myriad thoughts that flit through your mind like a bee collecting nectar from a variety of flowers. If you already have a family tree, take a look at it and see what recollections it brings.