The Ultimate Guide To Ancestry Walls And How To Make One (Step-By-Step)

Article by: Aly Wight


Time to read 5 min

Creating a space in your home that displays your family's history can be a great way of celebrating your heritage. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to create an ancestry wall for your home, from what to include to ideas for making it a bit special.

What Is An Ancestry Wall?

An ancestry wall, or genealogy wall, is a dedicated space in your home that displays photos, documents, and objects relating to your family's history. It's a visual representation of your roots and a celebration of your family. Think of it as a storytelling wall bringing the past into the present.

a wide shot of a corner of a room showing the walls covered with an arrangement of picture frames that form an ancestry wall
Image copyright protected property of Clanscape

Why Make An Ancestry Wall?

There are many reasons to create an ancestry wall. It can be a rewarding way to represent the hard work you may have put into your genealogy research, a much better way to enjoy it than by logging into ancestry websites to look at everything you've gathered. It can also celebrate family history and serve as a daily reminder of where you come from, giving you a strong sense of belonging. Possibly best of all, it's a fantastic talking point in your home and a way to spark conversations, keeping the stories of your ancestors alive for younger generations.

What Should You Add To An Ancestry Wall?

Your ancestry wall can include a variety of items that represent your family's history. Here's what you might consider:

Family Trees

A centrepiece for an ancestry wall can be a family tree, mapping out the connections between generations. This can become a decorative masterpiece in its own right. It could be something designed for you, or something made by you or a family member with a knack for art or design.

If you are interested in making your own family tree, check out this blog post: How To Make A Family Tree: To Trace Your Scottish Heritage

a close up of a family tree featured in the ancestry wall display

Portraits of Family

Adding family photos to your ancestry wall is going to be one of the most engaging ingredients of your display, adding all the family's characters to your story. 

Try to tell a story with the arrangement of the portraits, you could position ancestors higher on the wall, mirroring their place in the family tree, while more recent photographs are placed lower. 

Alternatively, you could have clusters of family branches and generations. 

Before you commit to hammering nails in the wall, try different layouts on the floor and see what feels right.

a close up of a photos of people featured in the ancestry wall display

Photographs of Places

Adding pictures of important places to your ancestry wall can really set the stage and tell a story with real depth. Whether it’s photo of where your family used to live or a landscape related to your family’s past, these images add a space for the imagination.

Do You Have Scottish Ancestry?

For those with Scottish heritage, Clanscape offers something really special. Our collection of landscape photo prints is perfect for anyone asking where their Scottish surname originated. Each of our prints showcases a castle or landscape connected to the origins of Scottish clans and surnames. You can explore our print shop here.

a close up of a photos of places  featured in the ancestry wall display


Including birth certificates or newspaper articles into your ancestry wall can add an interesting layer to the story you're telling. 

Birth certificates serve as trustworthy source of information amongst the more visual elements. 

Newspaper clippings, whether they feature major events or small notices about your family members, act as snapshots of moments in time, providing insights into their lives.


Incorporate drawings, paintings, sculptures, ornaments or any other art that has significance to your family. 

This could include art passed down through generations or something new that represents your family. 

If your family is creative then art made by family members over the years can add to the overall story you're telling with your ancestry wall.

How Do You Make An Ancestry Wall?

There is no right or wrong way of making an ancestry wall, however here are some guiding steps to follow. The more personal and unique your wall is the better. It should reflect your family, its unique story and identity.

Step 1: Curation

Begin by gathering old family photos from your collections and reaching out to relatives for contributions. If you have already started your ancestry research then you may have already done this.

This step is crucial for uncovering hidden gems and understanding more about your family's history. Once you've collected a variety of photographs, select your favorites. Work out who, where and what you want to include in the story you're telling.

Older photos might require care and attention; consider taking time to digitise, restore, and even colourise them before ordering new prints on archival paper. This way ensures you have a freshly restored digital image and a durable print, allowing the original to be safely stored away. Digitising and reprinting will also allow you to resize photos to suit your design.

Next decide what other elements you want to include from the earlier suggestions, these could be:

  • Family Tree
  • Photographs of Places
  • Clanscape print if you have Scottish ancestry
  • Documents
  • Artwork

Step 2: Layout

Measure the wall space you intend to use and replicate that area on the floor with tape. This allows you to experiment with different arrangements without committing to a particular layout. 

Rearrange your photos and other elements on this floor layout until you're satisfied with the configuration. Taking photos of potential layouts can help you remember and compare options. 

At this stage you might have a mixture of framed and unframed photos so remember to leave enough space around the unframed ones.

Step 3: Frames

Decide on a style that suits your home. While some may opt for matching modern frames to create a uniform look, a mix-and-match approach, with old and new mixed up can add character.

Choose frame styles to complement each other and enhance the overall cohesion of the wall.

Step 4: Hanging

Hanging the pictures can be the most challenging part. Start by placing pieces at each corner of your outlined area and then fill in towards the center. It's important to measure carefully and use a level to ensure frames are straight. Having another person to assist can be very helpful during this step. 

Aim to position the center of your gallery wall at eye level, to keep the display comfortably within view.

More Ancestry Wall Ideas

Creating an ancestry wall can be as unique as your family's story. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

  • Large Scale Mural: Painting a family tree directly onto the wall can be a bold and beautiful way to display your ancestry.
  • Add Shelves: Incorporating shelves allows you to mix objects and trinkets with framed photos and documents, adding depth and variety to your display.
  • Multiple Walls for Different Branches of the Family: If you have the space, dedicating different walls to different family lines can be a great way to organise your history.
  • Restore and Colourise Old Photographs with Apps: Modern technology can help bring old black and white photos to life in colour, offering a vibrant look at your family's past.

Creating an ancestry wall is a deeply personal project that can add meaning and beauty to your home. Whether you choose to include a few select items or create an extensive display, the key is to celebrate the stories and people that have made your family what it is today.

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