While helping my mother sort through a number of boxes that had been left untouched for years I stumbled across some old photographs that my great-grandmother Emma had placed in an album. By old, I do mean ancient. We gathered around them staring and squinting and trying to remember long lost connections and relations on my father’s side. But when we remembered a name, or found something that led us to discover another piece of heritage; it was like finding a fit for a particularly difficult puzzle piece. I came home to my kids wanting to remember and preserve all the different puzzle pieces so they wouldn’t have to wonder about their own family history.
With adoption as a key piece of our family history I want to preserve what we know for my oldest daughter and have it fit in beautifully to her family puzzle. I have written about this before, about the dreaded and complex family tree project at school, but this summer my daughter and I discovered a new way to outline familial history. In Unbored (a book I highly recommend you get your hands on this summer) there is a unique take on the old family tree. In a section called “Your Funky Family Tree” they give an alternative to the tree with a family fan concept. In a series of arcing lines that radiate out from her at the center she can chart her birthmother and me on the same line. The fan concept isn’t new but using it to chart both birth and adoptive parents and then birth and adoptive siblings equally is a fresh and relatable concept. The fan connected well for my non-linear thinker, and she found in this an easy way to piece together her lineage in a way that meant something to her. For the more linear thinker check out Family Tree Magazine’s fill in chart for the adoptive child.
With the changing dynamic of how families ‘look’ these days, its always good to have alternatives on hand for those classic projects in the days ahead.