By Patricia Hartley
Perhaps you’ve been wondering what you could possibly buy for the genealogist or family historian on your list. We understand your frustration. Although genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States, if you’re not ancestry-obsessed yourself it can be a challenge to know what to buy.
So we’ve gathered some of the most secretly wished-for genealogy gifts – plus some surprises your roots researcher may not even know he or she wants. You’re sure to find something great for any special occasion.
9 Genealogy Gift Ideas for the Family Historian on Your List
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1. Genealogy Record Access and Upgrades
We’ll start with the most obvious–but always appreciated–option: genealogical database subscriptions. This is an easy last minute gift as well.
Today’s genealogists use a plethora of online resources on a daily basis, especially free sites like FamilySearch. But most of us also subscribe to at least one paid database like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, or FindMyPast.com.
A new subscription would be an excellent gift for the beginning genealogist, or even a more seasoned researcher without an active subscription. Some sites offer gift memberships, such as Ancestry, making gift giving easy – although a gift from Ancestry can only be given to someone without a current subscription.
Most subscription sites do not offer gift subscriptions, however. For these sites you will need to order a regular subscription and then share the login details you created during purchase with your gift recipient. A good way to do this is to create a new email address on a place like Google (gmail) and then use that email to purchase the membership (this will keep your gift a secret). Then, you just need to share this email address and password in a card or via email. Another method is to use the gift recipient’s email, but they will get a notice as soon as the sale is complete.
If you already have a membership at your site of interest make sure you are not logged in during purchase or your “gift” will end up being applied to your own account. It is OK to be logged in for gift memberships, like what Ancestry offers.
To extend current subscriptions or add upgrades as a gift we suggest calling the company of interest.
Here is a list of popular subscription sites. Choose one that your genealogy lover will benefit from and it will be a much appreciated gift.
- Ancestry.com – general research, gift memberships are available here and they do not renew automatically, only for those without a current subscription, cannot extend current subscriptions
- MyHeritage.com – general research, no gift membership available (may soon be released), great annual prices, can start your gift with 14 days free
- Findmypast – UK focused general research, no gift memberships, can purchase a regular subscription with 14 days free and gift that
- Newspapers.com – newspaper research, no gift memberships
- Fold3– military records, no gift memberships
- GenealogyBank – newspapers and general research, gift memberships available
You may also like to read this guide to better understand the differences between Ancestry, MyHeritage and Findmypast.
2. A DNA Kit
Another can’t-go-wrong option for your genealogist is a DNA kit. Many people interested in family history are eager to test but have not yet done so, or want to test with multiple companies but don’t have the funds. Ask your genealogy friend or family member if they have tested and where, and then choose a kit they haven’t yet used.
- AncestryDNA – the most recognizable option
- MyHeritage DNA – great for combining DNA results with genealogy research
- Family Tree DNA – a good test for those who want advanced tools to analyze their results
- 23andMe – best test if your recipient will also want health results
- LivingDNA – good for those who are mostly curious about UK ancestry
3. Genealogy Memberships
As much as your genealogist wants to be a member of every genealogical or historical society, membership costs can add up quickly. Consider a gift membership to your historian’s favorite local, state, or national organization. An individual annual membership to the National Genealogical Society is only $77, and includes amazing perks including quarterly magazines, a monthly newsletter, discounts on genealogical books and trips, and other valuable resources. Another great choice is a membership to American Ancestors from the New England Historic Genealogy Society, which included millions of records and other member perks.
4. A Cemetery Kit
A favorite haunt of any genealogist is the family cemetery. Whether ancestors are buried in a 200-acre military park or an overgrown, remote plot of forested land on private property, you can bet that your family historian will find and photograph those headstones.
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If you’re the crafty sort, consider assembling a cemetery survival kit for your fearless family member. A list of items to include can be found in this article.
5. Family History Books
When genealogists aren’t actually doing genealogy, they’re reading about genealogy or learning about genealogy. It’s true. Books are just as much a part of our passion as burial plots and census records…but how on earth do you know which ones are already in your historian’s personal library, or which ones they need?
Do they want books containing historical record transcripts or indexes, one of the must-have guides to genealogical proof standards, books about new tricks or tips for researching, or maybe one to learn about becoming a professional genealogist? Your best bet might be a gift card to Amazon, or a prepaid generic gift card to use at a store like Genealogical.com or Heritage Books, Inc., which specialize in genealogy books.
6. Archival Supplies
As the designated family historian, your genealogist has probably (hopefully!) amassed his or her fair share of family photographs and memorabilia from all limbs of the tree. While we treasure serving as the trustee of these priceless heirlooms, preserving them properly for future generations can get expensive. Some pieces must be handled with archival gloves, stored in special boxes, or encased in archival-quality sleeves. Consider a gift card or assortment of high-quality storage products from a specialty provider like Archival Methods or Gaylord Archival.
7. Personalized Pick-me-ups
Who wouldn’t love an “I Seek Dead People” coffee mug or a beautiful watercolor flower art print rendition of their family tree (like this one on Etsy)? Your family historian is proud of his or her hobby, and a gift that showcases their hard work or lets them know you appreciate their efforts is sure to be one of their favorites! From custom jewelry to tote bags to t-shirts, you’re sure to find something special for your genealogist on a site like Etsy, or check out Pinterest to explore ideas for gifts you can make on your own.
8. Educational Opportunities
What genealogist doesn’t want to improve his or her skills? If you know of a person who has been thinking about getting started with family history or who would love to learn how to improve their research, consider an online course from Family History Daily. They are a great gift for any researcher and are a perfect last minute option. To give a course as a gift simply buy the option you desire and then email Family History Daily and they will send you a gift code.
9. Genealogical Getaway or Intensive
If you’re on the lookout for a more extravagant gift, a travel opportunity or intensive is a wonderful choice. If you really want to knock their socks off, create a getaway they’ll never forget–one that combines a vacation with their favorite hobby.
How about a trip to Washington, DC where your loved one can spend their days researching in the National Archives while the family enjoys seeing the sights? Or one to Salt Lake City so that they can visit the Family History Research Center, the largest genealogical collection in the world? A more personal choice, such as a site seeing trip to an ancestral town, may also be the perfect gift. See this article for more help.
Your historian may also love a week of networking and skill-building at a genealogical conference or institute like the 2019 Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research in Athens, Georgia, 2019 RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah, or the National Genealogical Society’s 2019 Family History Conference in St. Charles, Missouri. Tuition and room and board for these intensive and highly engaging experiences usually adds up to be around $1000, but you can contribute to the cause by comping tuition only or purchasing a hotel gift card.
So there you go. Now there are no excuses for not finding the perfect gift for your family historian! No matter what you decide upon, the fact that you are fueling your genealogist’s passion will put you right up there with Santa as the best gift-giver ever!
For nearly 30 years Patricia Hartley has researched and written about the ancestry and/or descendancy of her personal family lines, those of her extended family and friends, and of historical figures in her community. After earning a B.S. in Professional Writing and English and an M.A. in English from the University of North Alabama in Florence, Alabama, she completed an M.A. in Public Relations/Mass Communications from Kent State University. She’s a member of the Alabama Genealogical Society, Association of Professional Genealogists, National Genealogical Society, International Society of Family History Writers, Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society, Natchez Trace Genealogical Society and the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review. She lives with her husband Doug, a firefighter and paramedic, on the beautiful Tennessee River. Patricia has two children, Jessica and Jamie, both graduates of the University of North Alabama.
Image: Police Xmas Tree — distributing gifts. [between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920]. Library of Congress