5 Genealogy Projects You Can Do From Your Couch

By Andrew Koch
Take advantage of these five indoor genealogy projects as you bundle up for the winter.

As the days get shorter, you’ll likely find yourself with less to do outside—and more hours to kill indoors. Make the most of your shut-in time with these five easy genealogy projects that will keep you cozy, further your research goals and complement your favorite warm beverage.

1. Write down your memories.

Remember that one ancestor who left nothing behind and is a total mystery to you? Congrats: You’re that ancestor for one of your descendants. Give that future genealogist the firsthand account you wish you had from an ancestor by writing down your own personal history. Details that seem boring to you might enthrall later generations, particularly your memories of historic events. Also make sure to clearly record information about your own major life events (birth, baptism, marriage, migration, etc.).

More seasoned writers might consider partaking in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This intensive project encourages writers to create a full novel-length manuscript in November. While you might not want to commit to such a large word count, consider setting some time aside this month for writing about your family history. We’ve put together a list of the best writing resources and strategies, plus great suggestions on how to publish a book when you’re finished.

2. Interview relatives.

As you gather notes for your family memoir, consider adding other relatives’ voices to the project. Interviewing your family members will help broaden your story and fill in any gaps. Plus, it will give you an excuse to spend time with loved ones who you might not have seen otherwise. We’ve got a list of 20 genealogy interview questions to get you started.

3. Back up your data.

Eventually, the technology you rely upon for your genealogy will fail. Hard drives become corrupt, and you never know when a disaster like a fire or flood will strike.

Knowing this, make sure you periodically create multiple copies of your important genealogy files and family photos. According to Denise Levenick in the Best Family History Projects eBook, experts recommend the “Backup 3-2-1” model:

  • Three distinct digital copies of important files
  • Two different storage media (e.g., on your desktop and on an external hard drive or cloud service)
  • One copy stored offsite (e.g., at home on your personal computer and on a server hosted somewhere else, such as through a cloud service)

4. Craft with your kids and grandkids.

You’ve probably got more relatives in your home around this time of year—especially during the holidays. Sure, you could retreat to separate corners of the house to watch Netflix. Or, instead, you could find activities that bring you closer together and celebrate your heritage. We’ve got great suggestions for kid-friendly genealogy projects that are fun for the whole family, most of which are perfect for cold or rainy days.

5. Create photo gifts.

Put those family photos to good use! Companies from Walgreens and Target to Vistaprint allow you to create custom photo gifts that your friends and relatives will love. Using these services, you can easily make mugs, calendars, magnets, posters, photo books and more.

This year, I’m making two photo calendars as Christmas gifts for loved ones. Each month has a different collection of cherished family pictures that I hope will brighten my family’s day. They’re great mementos of the time you and a loved one shared—plus a reminder of the good times to come! It also saves me time (and money) later in the holiday season.