This week we had a wedding in the family, one of the first for the next generation down (kids and nieces and nephews).  Lots of big excitement and getting together with family.  The bride’s mother put together a wonderful collection of pictures from the weddings of the past in both families (parents and grandparents).  So, not only is the topic of weddings and traditions on my mind, but so is starting new family trees or branches on old ones.

For the young couple, I had wanted to do something family tree oriented for this new family.  I am, after all, known as the odd relative who is interested in all those old people and who’s related to who.  But since the bride’s mother had already used pictures I had trouble thinking of what else I could do.  Of course I didn’t start trying to figure this little problem out until too close to the Big Day to have time to do anything that would take too much time.  So writing much of anything, like the family story, was out.  Then I thought of doing a presentation family tree for them that showed the two families joined by their wedding.  Duh, the pictures should have given me the idea weeks and weeks ago.

The next stumbling block was coming up with some of the information I didn’t  have.  Mostly I have the information I needed for our side of the family.  But I had none for the new family.  I hadn’t met any of the groom’s family yet, so I couldn’t just ask one of them.  And I wanted to keep it a secret from the couple, so I couldn’t do the obvious and ask them.  I did have a few clues, like last name and general area they lived in.  So I started tracing the family the way I would for any genealogy project.  Although I am less used to tracing live people, I started looking in directories and came up with a likely match which gave me some names and approximate ages.  I knew that there had been a death, so I found this one in the Social Security Death Index and that gave me a full name and two dates.  I checked local newspapers and found an obituary that had a little information, including a maiden name for a woman that I didn’t have.

Then I had the great good luck to meet two sisters of the groom at a wedding shower.  I didn’t know whether they would know what I wanted, but figured it was worth telling them about and asking for their help.  And I got lucky.  One of the sisters had done a partial family tree for a graduate course and had the information.  She thought.  Of course where it was, and when she could look for it, was another question.  Life and travel being the obstructions.  But she cheerfully volunteered to do so, and was agreeable to setting a time line that would leave me time to put it all together.

So while I was waiting for the details I so needed, I went to work looking to see how I could create a “pretty picture” of this new family.  Have I said I’m not very creative?  Can’t draw to save myself.  I can imagine what I want something to look like, but cannot make it happen with a paper and pencil.  I rummaged through my genealogy database program, I use RootsMagic4, to see what kind of reports I could run.  Nothing seemed to fit what I had in mind, which was so much more colorful than lines and information.  I rummaged online a little and then remembered the service that the Chart Chick offers.  I had heard her interviewed, I think on the Genealogy Guys podcast, and remembered that she is part of a company that makes charts and displays of genealogy information for people.  So I went looking and was very happy to discover, at www.generationmaps.com, the Family ChArtist.  This online service allows you to create a chart with background and border and color and pictures, and then to order a copy or even (best of all!) to save an image copy, regular paper size, to your computer for free.  I started creating the bones of the new tree and playing with the alternatives on this site.

By the time I got the new family information I was ready.  I had found a background tree and figured out sizes and layout for the information.  I was able to create several variations and download them to my computer.  I printed the one I chose and took it to the framer.  I was so pleased when the people there liked it.  And I found a perfect mat and frame for it.  The family genealogist strikes again!

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