40 gift ideas for the Genealogist in your life : From zero cost to over the top
I'm publishing my third annual Christmas gift list for the Genealogist very early this year. Delays in postal services mean we all need to think about Christmas shopping earlier than usual. The gift list for your genealogist/family historian is still a long one. So read on for some inspiration covering every budget from zero cost to over the top.
$0 to $10
Funds tight? Then let's start with the zero to low cost options first. Most family genealogists would appreciate any of the following:
A list of 10 of the best Family History/Genealogy blogs – I'll post a list for you to use closer to Christmas. Draft it using an elegant font and decorate with some attractive Christmas clip art or topic-relevant images. Print the document and either:
roll it up and tie with ribbon; or
place the document in a large, flat envelope then Christmas-wrap the envelope; or
fold and place the document in a box then Christmas-wrap the box – after all good things come in small packages.
Document scanning software for your genealogist's tablet or mobile phone. The ability to scan documents on the go and away from home is an important task for genealogists and too few take advantage of the scanning capability of their tablet/i-pad or mobile phone. Tech Radar lists the following mobile document scanning apps as their top picks for 2020 all of which are free to download for the basic product:
Abbyy FineScanner (also suitable for foreign language documents)
They also recommend:
Microsoft Office Lens
I have a Flip Pal scanner myself so I haven't used any of these products. However, TechRadar's reviews of each program can be read here. If your genealogist already has a mobile scanner, then using scanning software on their phone/tablet/i-pad means they will have one less device to carry when they go on the road or just to the local archives office.
An I.O.U. for one or more of the following personal yet useful services – these do not require an outlay of any money but are essential activities for your genealogist. It’s also possible you have skills which your family genealogist lacks and would appreciate:
Back up your family genealogist’s files for them – genealogists are human too and all too often they don’t get around to doing regular back-ups themselves;
Organise their paper and/or digital documents either according to their preferred method or to one of your recommendation – this comes easily to some genealogists, but others struggle with organising all their research, documents, photos, certificates, etc.;
If your family genealogist does not have a structured method for storing digital family history files offer to create one for them;
An hour or two (or more) of your research time (or research assistant time);
An hour or two (or more) of your time scanning your genealogist’s old documents or photographs for them;
Create a ready reference list of all the births, deaths and marriage certificates they hold (whether in hard copy or digital format) for their family members/ancestors. Many people consider this best practice, but again, it often remains on genealogists’ To Do lists;
Sync your genealogist’s multiple devices for them (i.e. desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile phone and digital camera) to ensure the family history-related contents are either the same on each device or, at the very least, are all on the genealogist’s main computer or in their cloud storage. Like other people, genealogists can work from anywhere and are prone to having information spread across each device they use and can be inclined to forget to move documents and photos from one to another;
Proof-read their latest book on the family's history - every writer needs another pair of eyes to check their manuscript before publishing or distributing.
Family Tree magazine - The latest copy can be downloaded here to your genealogist’s phone, tablet or desktop computer for under A$10.00. I suggest you give your genealogist an I.O.U. in a nice card and then at their convenience download the magazine on their device. If you know how, then you could also snip a picture of the magazine or even take a photo from the magazine's website, print it out and include it with the IOU.
Luggage scales – An inexpensive but very useful piece of equipment for your travelling genealogist once the pandemic finally passes and travel is once again on the agenda. Whether they are restricted to carry-on luggage or use a suitcase, luggage scales are always a welcome gift. Mechanical scales cost as little as A$5 from discount variety stores or A$10 for battery-operated digital scales. The latter is smaller and neater, but there is a risk the battery will die at the worst possible time. (I use the mechanical version myself.) Whichever type you choose, make sure they go up to at least 32Kg. Of course, you can purchase far more expensive luggage scales, but I find either of these low-end options work perfectly.
A clutch pencil or two (also known as a mechanical pencil) - Archives and Libraries forbid the use of pens and visitors/researchers may only use pencils. A clutch pencil is a useful item for your travelling genealogist's toolkit. At the time of writing, Office Works has clutch pencils and refills ranging from as little as A$3.86 up to about A$40 (for the stationery lover). You can no doubt find them cheaper again at a discount store. Buy an attractive pen box for $2 from the discount store and you have an ideal, yet thoughtful gift. Add a note saying you know they can't use pens in the Archives so the genealogist knows you've given it considerable thought.
A framed genealogy saying or cartoon - search Google for something that takes your fancy or that you think your genealogist will appreciate. If it's a saying, type it up using a fancy font. If it's a cartoon, reproduce it on a colour printer. Purchase an inexpensive frame and you have another thoughtful, attractive and relevant gift.
A packet of 2 or more magnetic photo holders – a simple but useful gift. If you have an old family photo to include so much the better. They cost under A$10 from good stationers or photographic shops.
For even less outlay, create a jpeg file (if you know how) and upload it to your genealogist's computer, tablet or phone as their desktop picture. Just Google "genealogy sayings" or "genealogy cartoons" or "genealogy humour". You will be spoilt for choice, for example:
$10 to $50
If you have a budget, but no idea what to get for someone whose passion is family history/genealogy then consider the following:
A month’s subscription to (or pre-paid credits for) one of the major commercial genealogical databases - If your genealogist already subscribes to one, then they would probably appreciate a short-term subscription to another. (For annual subscriptions see the section $100-$500 below.) Examples that I use myself include FindMyPast (an affiliate), The Genealogist, and Scotland's People. The first two sell one-month subscriptions and the latter sells credits. Ancestry does not sell monthly subscriptions but has a pay as you go arrangement where you can access 10 records over 14 days for $10.95. Note: this pay as you go arrangement does not allow access to content contributed by other users (including trees, photos and records) nor does it enable you to contact other users through Ancestry.com.
Quote FOFMPTL20 for a 20% discount on an annual PRO subscription at findmypast.com.au
A 2021 family history calendar. Go to an online stationery company like Vistaprint.com.au and create your own photo calendar using an old family photo for each month. The family historian in your family will enjoy it or if you're the genealogist, it would make a practical gift for some of your own family members. They make an ideal small gift for seniors who are sometimes difficult to buy for. Make the calendar even more thoughtful by marking birthdays and other important family dates throughout the year. The cost starts at about A$16-18 but at the time of writing Vistaprint has discounted them for Christmas to A$9.60 for either a desk or wall calendar. Many other companies also provide the same personalisation service for their products.
A personalised coffee mug, mousepad or water bottle – these can be purchased online, usually for A$10-$15 from sites like Vistaprint.com. Designing your own personalised products are usually more cost effective than purchasing ready made genealogy-related items. Upload a favourite old or new photo to go on the mug. If you don’t have one or prefer a family history saying or image then go to a website like Pixabay.com and download a royalty-free picture to add to the item when ordering it online.
A genealogy T-shirt with or without collar. These can be purchased ready made from a myriad of online shops or you can make it a more personalised item and customise it for your genealogist. As with personalised coffee mugs, mousepads, etc., download an appropriate picture or words or make your own design if you're creative (sadly I'm not) and order online from Vistaprint.com.au and similar companies. Expect to pay from A$12-$50.
Above: Your Family Genealogist's grandmother arriving at the church with her father in 1926. [Colourised using MyHeritage's enhancement and colourisation tools.]
Cable and gadget organiser – We all travel with multiple cables, adaptors, usb drives, SD cards and the like these days. A zipped cable and gadget organiser is an essential piece of kit for the genealogist – regardless of whether they travel to the local library or the other side of the world. They can be purchased for $10-$25 depending on size and quality. If the budget extends that far, make it a more substantial gift by including one of everything your genealogist uses for their technology so they don’t have to remember to pack everything each time they travel.
Who Do You Think You Are magazine – either purchase a hard copy magazine from a large news agency (usually less than A$20) or purchase the latest issue via download from PocketMags (A$7.99 at the time of writing). The digital version is also available from iTunes, Google Play or Amazon (Kindle).
128 GB SD card (or larger/smaller) to provide additional storage for the family genealogist’s mobile phone or tablet. Genealogists often use the camera on their mobile phone or tablet even more than the average person and additional storage will take the pressure off constantly running out of space on their device. At the time of writing, Amazon.com.au has a 128 GB San Disk SD card for A$19.94. Check to ensure your family genealogist doesn’t use an i-phone as I’m told they do not allow for additional storage. (I’m an android user myself.)
$50 to $100
If your budget is less constrained, then the following list may provide you with a few ideas:
A key reference book for the serious genealogist who writes up their research. The following two books are available from the Bookdepository.com (for free worldwide delivery) or Amazon.com in either Kindle or print versions:
Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace: 3rd edition revised; or
Genealogy Standards: Second Edition by the Board for Certifiction of Genealogists.
I have Genealogy Standards myself and Evidence Explained is on my Christmas wish list this year!
An external/portable hard drive – a key piece of equipment for the genealogist for whom losing all their research because their computer died would be a disaster. A 2 TB hard drive can be purchased for less than A$90. Combine it with an I.O.U. to do the first back-up for them (see above). If your genealogist is not very tech-savvy, include an I.O.U. to show them how easy it is to connect the hard drive and do the back-up.
Family History software – many people don’t like storing all their family history research with the online commercial databases. If they are relatively new to family history research, your genealogist might not yet have any specific software to store/record their research. There are multiple options including but not limited to:
Family Tree Maker – which syncs with Ancestry.com;
Legacy Family Tree;
A pre-paid DNA test kit - Even if your genealogist has already had their DNA tested, many of them (including me) would like to test with another company as well. If your genealogist is a male, they might like to have their Y DNA tested if they had their mtDNA (the most common test for both sexes) done previously. All the major DNA testing companies often have pre-Christmas sales. At the time of writing their DNA test kits cost:
FindMyPast in conjunction with Living DNA ($129 plus 14 days free research time for those new to FindMyPast (affiliate);
Ancestry ($89 plus shipping up till 23 November 2020);
23andMe (US$79 for the standard Ancestry plus traits; US$99 for the Health plus Ancestry report; and US$399 for the VIP plus Ancestry service) until 26 November 2020;
MyHeritage (A$65 until 23.59 on 28 November 2020).
A Tree of Life necklace (or bracelet or earrings). If the platinum and diamond variety I suggested in the Over the Top section below is out of reach for your budget, there are endless options in this price range. The tree of life has virtually been adopted by genealogists as being representative of the family tree. If your genealogist is a woman and loves jewellery, this could be a good, long-lasting option. They come in all price ranges. Just Google "Tree of Life Necklace" or visit Etsy.com which has a wide range to choose from at the lower end of the price scale in one place.
Example of a tree of life necklace. Price approx A$38.
A new tablet or mobile phone cover/case – these can get very shabby quite quickly and are a practical gift for your genealogist who uses their phone and tablet regularly for genealogical purposes.
Gift voucher for a photo book – Genealogists love to share their knowledge of the family’s history and old ancestral photos. But it can be expensive sharing the information in a professional format. A voucher or I.O.U. for a photo book will enable your genealogist to produce a professional product, possibly even a coffee table book for use in their own home to show off when family members visit. There are a myriad of online companies who do these books for individuals. A few include:
A subscription to a blog aggregation service – this is a time saver wherein your busy genealogist identifies which websites they are interested in and receive a daily (or weekly) notification with links to those blogs which have newly published material. An example is Feedspot.com which costs about US$3.75 per month. I use this service myself and find it very helpful and convenient.
Annual membership to the local genealogy society – if they are already members of the local society, then they would probably appreciate the gift of membership to a remote society where some of their ancestors came from. For example, some of my family came from Plymouth in the UK and I found a year’s subscription to the Devon Family History Society was very worthwhile as it gave me online access to their resources.
As genealogists we never stop learning. Many genealogists would appreciate a membership to Legacy Family Tree Webinars. I have a subscription myself and use it regularly. They have webinars for novices through to experts on every topic imaginable relevant to genealogy from getting started to DNA to technology and everything in between. If you miss a live webinar, they are all recorded and are available to view at your own convenience. The one year unlimited access to their recorded webinar library and also includes access to the instructors' handouts and chat logs from live webinars. At the time of writing, membership was US$49.95.
Portable power bank/charger – a phone and/or tablet running out of charge is a disaster for genealogists when they are in the middle of photographing or scanning material away from home. I never travel without mine. They come in an almost endless range of styles, sizes, strengths and prices. Don’t forget to add a short charging cable which they can carry all the time in their bag (i.e. 15 cm/6in or less in length). For the environmentally conscious, consider a solar powered charger.
$100 to $500
If you have a generous budget to spend but are clueless about what your genealogist might use/like, then keep reading:
12-month subscription to one of the commercial genealogy databases listed above. Genealogy is not a cheap hobby and a subscription to one of the major commercial databases will almost always be a prized gift.
For a 20% discount on FindMyPast.com.au's annual PRO subscription quote my special discount code FOFMPTL20. This code is valid until 31 December 2020.
[Note: I am an affiliate for FindMyPast and receive a small commission for any subscriptions purchased using this code. Be assured you do not pay any more.]
12-month subscription to a family history magazine – either in print or digital version. The digital version is often 30% (or more) cheaper but don’t forget to ensure the automatic renewal is de-activated. When buying an annual subscription you will often get 13 months. My favourites are the (British) Family Tree and Who Do You Think You Are?
Photo editing software – most genealogists treasure old family photos yet many of them are damaged to varying degrees. Photo editing software enables the genealogist to remove scratches, stains and other damage from the photo. If the budget allows, include a gift certificate for classes in how to use the software. Conversely, if the genealogist already has photo editing software but finds it difficult to use, then a gift certificate on its own will be welcome.
A briefcase on wheels – all the equipment a genealogist is inclined to carry around can get very heavy. A briefcase on wheels with a special place for the laptop, is a great piece of luggage for your genealogist. I speak from experience when I say whether they are going to the local library, travelling interstate or overseas for their research, this will come in handy and make life easier.
A block of hours from a professional genealogist to help break down one of your family historian's brick walls or provide advice on how to go about a specific aspect of family history research. Naturally, I'm here to help in this respect and if you mention this Blog post, you will receive a 10% discount.
Over the top
If money is not an issue, then you might consider:
A platinum and diamond or gold and diamond Tree of Life necklace. If your genealogist is female and loves jewellery, this would kill two birds with one stone, i.e. her passion for genealogy and appreciation for fine jewellery. The designs are endless and they are usually available from good jewellery stores everywhere. Google "Tree of Life necklace" for inspiration.
A quality DSLR camera is a wonderful piece of equipment for the genealogist and you don’t need to go far to find most brands on sale this time of the year. Add a zoom lens that will allow the genealogist to fill the picture with a document’s image. The quality of a DSLR camera also produces excellent reproductions of old photographs when visiting custodians of family treasures. Most DSLR cameras also come with a video function which genealogists can use for recording oral history interviews with family members.