How To Incorporate Your Family History Into Your Home Decor

Sheboygan and CalumetI often hear other researchers talking about how tough it is to get relatives interested in genealogy. Many of us are the lone nutjobs who like dead people family historians in our clan, and it can be hard to rope the relatives into listening to us talk about our finds. One of the ways I’ve gotten the (brief) attention of my husband’s teenage nieces and nephew is by incorporating their family history into our home decor. That way I can secretly work on getting them hooked every time they visit. We’re a little sneaky here at Clue Wagon Worldwide Headquarters.

This wasn’t my original purpose when I started this project. When we moved into our current home, we had just had our first baby, and I was about to change jobs. We had a lot of space to fill in our new house, and we didn’t have a lot of cash to do it.  I was looking for cheap ways to fill the walls, and I didn’t want generic stuff that had nothing to do with us.

I started out using maps and posters in my office (you can see how that turned out here), thinking that they’d come in handy in my research. Then I realized I liked them too much to stop, so I ended up using them throughout the first floor of my house.

These maps of Sheboygan and Calumet Counties in Wisconsin cost me $10 each on eBay. They weren’t standard sizes, so I bought cheap frame components on the internet and framed them myself. Some of my ancestors settled in Calumet County, and I’ve used the map quite a bit when I work on that line. My husband’s family has lived in Sheboygan County for generations, and most of my in-laws still live there.


This old map of Glenbeulah, Wisconsin (my husband’s hometown) is also in the dining room. I caught our 15-year-old nephew looking at it when he visited a couple of weeks ago. I believe people who fish call that a nibble. I paid $14.74 for this on eBay.


This bird’s eye view of St. Paul is a reproduction. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I’m certain it was under $20. I love that it’s dated January 1888, because my great-grandfather, Art Scheiber, was born in St. Paul in January 1888. I also love that the person who created it was obviously not a real Minnesotan, because there are leaves on the trees, there’s no snow on the ground, and there are boats on the totally-not-frozen river. Maybe that’s how January works in Louisiana or something…but not Minnesota.


When I was a kid, I collected postcards. Although I’ve moved a bunch of times throughout my life, and I’m not a packrat at all, for some reason, I kept my postcard collection. When I started to decorate this interior hallway, I didn’t have much left in my budget. I found this postcard rack at Pottery Barn on clearance, and I knew I’d finally found a home for my childhood postcards. For the walls, I bought antique postcards on eBay from locations where my husband’s family or mine had lived, and I put them in cheap (REALLY cheap—like, $2.99 or so) frames from a craft store.  The postcard sits between two panes of glass so that you can see the back if you need to (because the back of a postcard is often just as interesting as the front). This is the project I was working on when I accidentally bought a postcard that had been sent by one of my husband’s ancestors.


I’ve talked about my love for stuff from Red Owl Food Stores in the past. My house came with these knickknack shelves in the kitchen, and I am not at all a knickknack person, so I didn’t know what to do with them. I finally decided to fill them up with Red Owl stuff. These items are useful, too—the glass is a measuring cup that I actually use, my kids do their homework with the Red Owl pencils, and the coffee can holds crayons, so I can keep them busy while I make dinner. The Fanny Farmer truck on top is actually a piggy bank where I store loose change, so I always have some for the parking meters when I go downtown to do research. I get lots of comments from people from Minnesota or northern Wisconsin who visit and see this stuff, because folks from those areas remember Red Owl and Fanny Farmer.

What about you? Do you have family history stuff in your home decor?


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