Looking for a creative way to make a DIY family tree? Here’s an idea for a family tree DIY that celebrates family in every leaf.

A couple of years ago for Christmas, my sister, Whitney, took all my grandmother and grandfather’s love letters and made them into a book.

It was called Letters from Box 54.

There, in print, were all the everyday, the simple, the overlooked and the ordinary of our grandparents’ lives.

But in those moments–shared from letters written long ago with paper and ink, you could catch a glimpse of the overwhelming, incredible, amazing love they shared for each other….

…and see the extraordinary written in every line.

We all loved the book so much that we begged her for more history.  “Make a family tree,” we’d say. “History would come alive under your watch,” we’d encourage.  “You are the perfect family-treeer.  No one could make a family tree like you,” we’d implore.

But to no avail.

She would smile and laugh roll her eyes and shake her head and explain that family trees were a challenge she didn’t really want to take on.

Until one day she made this.

If you are new here and you’ve never celebrated the holidays with us, I need to start with a little explanation.

Our family makes gifts for each other every year.  We started small.  Someone made soap and then someone knitted something and then there was the year someone made trash cans with faces.

And then all that soaping and knitting and trash-can decorating turned into something a little more elaborate.

Like a picture of a thistle composed entirely of words from my blog.

Or tiny rolls of paper folded into artwork and turned into flowers and leaves on a book.

Or a stone doormat created from pebbles collected from every state in the union and stamped with each state’s bird (no one actually did that, but you never know…it might happen next year).

So when Whitney took up the challenge of the DIY family tree, this is what she created for each member of our family.

But of course, it couldn’t be an ordinary tree.

It couldn’t simply be a DIY family tree with lines and names and branches stretching out in every direction.


She wanted to create something a little different.

When planning her project, she took her cue from the letters from Box 54 and created a family tree made up of the ordinary.

The everyday.

The simple.

The minutes and seconds and hours and days and weeks of our lives.

She went back and found the papers that made each of our families who we are. My mother had kept files for each of us filled with pieces of paper.

Old yearbook pages.

Newspaper clippings.

Street maps of where we lived.

Marriage certificates.

Graduation certificates.

She made copies of all those documents and then carefully, sweetly, amazingly, she punched out the delicate letters of every family member’s name from the pages.

There was a K from a high school yearbook page.

And a D from a graduation certificate.

And on and on and on.

Tiny letters from all those fleeting moments.

And when she was done punching out all our letters, she took them and carefully glued them onto a canvas.

She arranged those delicate letters into a pattern–twisting and forming the trunk and branches and leaves of our family tree….

…each letter representing an hour or a minute or a celebration of our life.

All the pages and papers of our lives spelling out the leaves of the DIY family tree.

But that wasn’t all.

My wonderful, incredible, creative sister wasn’t done.

She had one more surprise.

Layered into the trees were the most amazing letters of all.

Tiny letters cut out from where it all started.

Where it all began so many years ago.

The notes and sketches and confidences written by our grandparents and sent from Box 54. Those stacks of letters showed up on the family tree.

Of course they did.

The letters from Box 54 is where it all started. Those letters form the foundation for our family tree and the beginning….

…of the pages of our lives. 🙂

PS  I love you, Whitney.

I want to be you when I grow up.

PPS I can’t wait to show you all the DIY family presents this year—especially ours. It’s a good one. 🙂

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
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  1. Image for Maria ELENA Blecha Maria ELENA Blecha

    I have misplaced!!(lost) your recipe for crmaberry bread, made it from memory and it was awful, too dried!!! Please where can I find it again? Thanks

  2. Image for JC JC

    So incredibly creative and heartwarming! This is a treasure, Whitney! You know what speaks to your Mama's heart. ❤️

  3. Image for Rena Rena

    Merry Christmas to you and your family! Thank you for the time you spend making me smile through your writing while teaching me something along the way. Cheers to 2023!

  4. Image for Jodena Beale Jodena Beale

    What a wonderful sister gift. Nothing could ever come close to that. The thought, the time, the love. Money can never buy that. How lucky you are to have her. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Image for Cindi Cindi

    I want to be Whitney when I grow up also. Or maybe she could be my sister too! Merry Christmas to your entire family (including Whitney😊). 🎅

  6. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    KA, you truly have one of the most thoughtful, talented and crafty family members of all time. This is an EXCELLENT gift - one you will treasure your whole life. Just love it. Very clever.

  7. Image for Karen B. Karen B.

    Wow! What an amazing project and gift. That is beautiful and is so special. Lucky you to have so much creative talent in your family. Karen B.

  8. Image for DeMarie Ingraham DeMarie Ingraham

    How utterly unique. How amazingly creative. How wonderfully personal. And how beautifully your sister’s love of family radiates through the Woods’ tree of life. Merry Christmas to you and your sweet family.


    What a precious treasure! I know you will enjoy it forever! May you and your dear family be blessed with a wonderful Christmas! Bless you all! KariAnne, you are so precious to us and we treasure your posts which are always so full of sunshine! I pray that God will contiinue to bless you and give you joy in your heart as you continue to share your heart and your life with us in your posts. You are loved so much! Thanks for being so special!

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