Sunday, May 8, 2016

Family Tree Wall Art

This project has been in my brain for years!  I got into family history about 12 years ago...before it was cool.  ha ha.  I remember taking my 2-1/2-year old with her coloring book and my baby in her car seat to the family history library and working at the computers amongst a sea of white-haired seniors.  Things have changed a lot in the world of family history even since I started.  Information is so readily available through sites like and  My favorite part of genealogy is finding photographs.  There is something so amazing about putting a face to a name.  It's also fun to pick out physical characteristics that you see in yourself or your parents, siblings, etc. I knew I wanted my art piece to be big.  I wanted to include as many generations as I could. I combed the internet trying to find a project that I could just copy, but I never found anything large enough and so I had to come up with it on my own.

My starting point was the two-pack frames that I found at Michael's one day last year. (I'm putting in a pic of the bar code so that maybe you can track down these exact frames.)  They were normally $1.50 a pack but they were on clearance for 50% off so I bought every.single.package.  Turns out I was two frames short, but there are a few ancestors that we don't have photographs of, so I just left them a blank spot for now.  I'll have to revise that later if we ever come across their photo.
I laid out my frames in a rough guess of placement so that we could determine how big my board needed to be.  Mine ended up as 68-1/2" wide by 38" tall.  See?  It's big!
We headed to Lowe's and bought seven cedar plank fence boards and two 1x2 to cut down and use as braces.   I believe the cost was around $24.
We cut off the dog-eared ends and sanded down each board.  We stained the board using a dark walnut color.
My hubby cut down and attached five bracing boards along the back using screws.
Next we laid the frames back out on the board.  We decided to arch the top a bit.   We made connection lines with pencil to give us an idea of where we would need to draw in branches.

Then my hubby drew out the tree and started to paint.  He's the artist in this relationship. I'm just the ones with the grand plans ;)  We used an off-white chalk paint from Wal-Mart to paint the tree.
Here it is coming along nicely...
I wanted the tree to have a little more of an aged feel, so once the paint was dry, I hand sanded it.  After I had it sanded the way I liked, I wiped off the board with a damp cloth to clean it up.
I sized down all my photographs to fit in the frames and colored them the same b&w with a hint of sepia tone and printed them out.  We glued the photos and frames to the board using hot glue but I'm not sure this will be the best long-term solution.  This has been hanging in our home for about three weeks now and we have already had one frame fall off.  If another one bites it them I might consider re-gluing using E6000 or something similar.
I wanted the tree to have lots of dimension, so for the names I printed on some lightly textured fabric using freezer paper.  There is a full tutorial for this process HERE.  I also included their date of birth and city where they were born.  I didn't bother making leaves for my husband and I or our children since we live here and all.
I hand cut leaf shapes around each name and glued them with one edge slightly tucked under the frame.  I ruffled some of them a bit or left edges hanging free to give it more texture. (I blurred my grandma's info to protect her privacy)

And here it is complete.  It is hanging on the wall right next to our front door so that it can be seen by visitors. It's a bit dark in our entry though, so I'm sorry for the poor photo quality.

I'm so happy with the end result!  And that's a big check mark on my mental list of things to do.


  1. This is gorgeous! What a great way to display your heritage! I love how it turned out. My mom did one similar for my grandpa years ago, but I don't know where it ended up. :( Great work, yes E6000 would be a formidable choice :)

  2. Wendy this is fabulous!! I have dreamed of doing something like this for years. I may just have to do it now that I know there is an expert in the neighborhood!

  3. This is amazing! I am running to Michaels tomorrow hoping they have some of these left somewhere! To prepare for the worst thought, could you tell me about how big those frames are? This is exactly what I have been looking for to display my pictures on the wall! The full size ones I have were getting a bit ridiculous to put up! Thanks for this!

  4. Thank you! I'm not home to measure right now but I believe the frames are only about 1.5" wide by 1.75" tall

  5. . These bizarre christmas trees can be made out of any material that you like family tree gift