I got back to campus a week before everybody else in January, 2022. Staring at my blank, white wall, with time to spare, I had an idea: I should draw my family tree on it.

It took four full days — working through nights and the quiet days — but it came together! Eleven feet long and four feet tall. I even made a (slightly goofy) video of it from start to finish.

But my favorite part was something I had not considered when I started drawing it. It caught my friends’ interest and sparked daily conversations about genealogy. Guests in our room stopped in their tracks, stared at it, and had lots of questions. And, when you are always reviewing something, you get new ideas! Seeing the diagram every time I woke up, got ready for the day, and folded my laundry inspired new research angles. It casually puts genealogy on your mind 24/7.

The mural! 

Tip: Visuals grab attention! And, they keep your mind active. Sure, tell your friends and family about your genealogy pursuits. But nothing triumphs over a good visual. I learned that by drawing this on my dorm wall. Anybody who visited our room immediately understood why genealogy research is exciting. And, it is fun to show your friends another dimension of your life!

Jack Palmer has done genealogy research since he was ten years old and loves writing about it for family, friends, and anybody else who might enjoy research stories and advice. He graduated from Duke University in May 2023, majoring in History and Psychology, and is the author of Helen & Frank: A Biography, a biography about his great-grandparents.

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