I’ll admit it, I’m a history nerd. I love studying and reading about past events, especially ones that are relevant to my own life, like stories about my state, hometown, and even family. I have always been fascinated with the idea of having real documentation of family generations. Obviously, being able to discuss with older family members is one way to get some solid information, but even they may not be able to go back as far as you might want when researching family ancestry.
When ancestry.com came out a few years back, the company advertised like crazy! Every time I saw a commercial, I got excited about the idea of using the site to create my own genealogy. I decided to look into it and figured out that the company offers a FREE 30 day trial. I was skeptical at first, but it really was free to use and when the 30 days was up, you could either pay to continue, or suspend your account.
Thirty days ended up being plenty of time for me to research and document 7 generations on both my mother and father’s side of the family. I ended up using the information and made my mom a family tree documenting my mom and dad’s families for them to display in their home.
When Andrew and I started planning our wedding for November 2013, I decided I wanted to display family photos and a family tree from both sides of the family at the reception. So Andrew and I signed up for his free trial and started working on a tree for his side. I gave it to my mother and father-in-law as an early Christmas present with the stipulation that I could use it for the reception.
The two trees together created a beautiful table at the door of our reception that people raved over.
I knew that I wanted to eventually merge the two trees together to create mine and Andrew’s family tree.
So drumroll please….one year later, I finally found time to put the two trees together to create a beautiful piece of artwork to hang in our home.
I knew this piece was going to be large, and I was fine with that, the only problem was finding a frame big enough that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I ended up finding one on clearance at Michael’s for $14.99!!!! Orginially it had cost $99 so I couldn’t have been more thrilled. While there I also picked up some green and brown scrapbook paper, some stickers, and some leaf decals.
Since I already had all the information, it was really just a matter of putting it all together. The first thing I did was type out all the names and dates onto the smaller Avery sticker labels. I found a pretty font and added some detail to the sticker to dress it up. They are small, but because I had around 70 names to put on, I knew they would need to be small to fit.
I then prepped the board (I purchased backing board in a tan at Michael’s, but they have every color imaginable) for adding the names. There are many ways to do this, but I have found the best way is to use scrapbook paper as the “tree leaves background” and round the edges at the bottom. Then use brown scrapbook paper to make the tree trunk. I just free hand cut those and then glued them on. This size needed 3 full sheets of green paper and then another 1/3rd added to the bottom of each to make the tree fit the size. The smaller ones I made only needed 2 sheets of paper. I then used light brown paint to free hand the tree branches. Honestly, they can go anywhere and look anyway you would want, they get mostly covered up by the names. I go back and add some darker brown paint to add some detail and dimension to both the trunk and limbs.
Next, I added the stickers for the family name and when OUR family was established. Again, this can go anywhere, I just chose to use it to fill up dead space at the bottom.
The next part is the fun part, adding al the stickers. I started on my side of the family at the very bottom with me. I put the husband on the left and the wife on the right, just for consistency.
When finished with a few generations, I used a sharpie to draw the connecting lines. Again, this can be done however and whenever you want in the process, I just find its easiest to do after a few so the names don’t start running together.
Once finished with my side, I started on Andrew’s side and the whole process started over again.
Side note: On the other trees I had made I didn’t use the Avery labels. I hand wrote the names on tabs and glued them down. The labels were WAY easier!!! No glue to worry about.
The next step is my favorite because this step starts to give life to the tree. I mentioned I bought some leaf decals from Michael’s. This is what they look like. They come in packs of 36 with two different sizes. One pack was the perfect amount for my tree this time.
Honestly, I just put these wherever there is dead space. I try to attach them to the limbs that are painted on if possible, but they look fine when just glued down. I used hot glue and was done in no time.
The last step I did before putting the piece back into the frame is painted a light cream over the cream backing on the bottom. There is really no reason for this, I just did it to add a bit more texture to the dead space.
***In the coming years as Andrew and I start our family, I will add our children down the trunk in order of birth (but this will not be for quite a few years).
I could not be more pleased with how this turned out and I know it will be something we treasure for many years. It looks wonderful on the big old blank wall that was haunting me in the living room and really adds a special touch, not to mention it will be an excellent conversation starter when we have guests over.