Discover Your Theme

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StoriesBy Mary V. Danielsen of Documented Legacy

It’s funny how trends come around again and you quietly remind yourself that as much as things change in the world, they still pretty much stay the same. So too, this can be said for the nuances within extended families.

In compiling your family history and organizing your archives of papers and old photos you may discover some very natural themes that run through generations. No, we’re not talking about the family drama, such as addictions and scandals. Well, maybe we are. Sometimes there are themes that run through family history that need preservation. Sometimes it is just a quirky piece of family gossip. This week, search through all the data you have so carefully compiled to find a host of fun facts about your family. Think of this as your game-show-host task and create a list of themes that run through the family.

This is your fun assignment. What you’re looking for are facts and reoccurring tidbits of information that not everyone in the family knows or remembers. Things that will make people curious to know more.

Your challenge is to analyze the information you’ve gathered and find similarities that run through the blood line or that became a tradition or habit that wove through generations.

Did every other generation in your family have twins or triplets? Were all the men 6’4 tall or taller? Do you see a resemblance of the great grandparents in your children? Did families help each other in business years ago, just like they’re doing today? Were there daisies on the table in every Mother’s Day photo for one family line. Are there eating or cooking habits that travel through the years.

For example, while conducting genealogy research on my maternal great grandfather, Fidardo Landi, I found two old hand-written letters from both my mother and grandmother outlining Landi’s brothers and sisters. Each had various notes that complemented the other letter. As it turns out the younger ones in the family were the business owners. As they immigrated to the United States, they all settled in the Northeast and continued to help each other grow a business. In my family today, the youngest three siblings are business owners and all members of the family go out of their way to help each other in business. Another noted theme, two of my brothers and two sisters distinctly look like this side of the family. The flaming blue eyes are a pure giving away. My great grandfather was an artist and two of his great, great grandchildren are now professional artists. They also have some similar habits in how they manage their studio time and collections.

A love of cats seems to be well defined through five generations of my family, according to stories and photos.

While there is a niche area of documenting medical personal histories there is also an opportunity to note physical or mental peculiarities. For instance, did your great grandmother always stand a certain way? Did one generation have motor ticks that weren’t seen again for two generations? The weird little toe? Moles? Freckles? Perhaps while looking through photos, you discovered the prevalence of left-handed man or women who never looked at the camera. Did everyone in the family have a certain way of wearing a hat?

There may be traditions that happened at Sunday dinners that are of particular interest. Become a photo detective and see what the images tell you.

Family Trivia Sheet

Click on image to download a printable Family Trivia sheet

Look for themes in military history and post service careers. Did various generations attend the same military academy or earn similar metals.

Add the subjects of preferred pets, children’s names, favorite vacations, academic achievements, hobbies, civic and charitable organizations, church functions, number of children in each family, most places visited, homes, and decorating habits to your search. Now you’re getting close to creating your own family board game

Now, if you’re still laughing (or at least shrugging your shoulders) about the family drama that continues to reappear from generation to generation, here are two thoughts. First, every family has drama. Two, if this is something that’s history, view it like the wild west. It’s now a trivia question.

Good luck creating the board game.

Tip: Take this list of themes and facts to your family gatherings and create your own trivia game. Bring a prize. Also, bring a notebook. Framily reunions are a great time to gather more tidbits. Print our trivia game template.

Tip: The holidays are quickly approaching. If you’re looking for a fun way to take these facts and create unique gift ideas for the family, check out our creating page for gift-giving ideas.


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