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New business offers unique way to display the past

Date: 5/13/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

SOUTH HADLEY -- It's that time of year again -- the time when families panic about what to get Dad for Father's Day. The man doesn't need another tie.

Arbor Arts, a new company based in South Hadley, is offering something unique for families to enjoy together.

Carl and Nancy Geitz officially launched on April 29. "We decided to build because -- like you -- we wanted a unique and special way to display our family tree in our home," they state on their Web site. "And, we wanted a creative and personalized gift to give to our extended family."

The site allows customers to enter family information for up to five generations, including dates of birth, marriage and death and places lived, and then have that information displayed in an artistic manner. The motto of Arbor Arts is "Where your family tree becomes a work of art."

"My interest in our family history and my husband's interest in technology led us to this," Nancy explained.

"Nancy had her family tree information from her aunt, and we wanted to put that tree on our wall," Carl added. "We went on the Internet to look for something that could help us do that, and things were available, but none with an artistic quality. That sounded like an opportunity to us for something that people wanted."

There are currently four different kinds of designs for family trees available (botanical, garden, watercolor and tree), and the husband-wife duo said they plan on adding more. They approached artists over the Internet to create the designs for them.

The Geitzes attended several genealogy conferences before starting their Web-based company and Carl said "a surprising number of people" are interested in genealogy.

"It's a lot easier to research family trees [now] than it was 20, 30 years ago," Carl said. "Now there is the digitization of records. Various historical societies are online. There's a huge virtual community."

Nancy believes things like the History Channel and the release of books that make history "more alive and real" have also fueled the increased interest in genealogy.

She and Carl decided to go back only five generations for what they currently offer for practical reasons. The family trees currently available are about 24 inches wide by 16 inches high. When matted and framed, the trees are roughly 32 inches wide by 25 inches high.

"We wanted something big enough to make names and dates legible, but something small enough for people to easily hang on their walls," Nancy explained.

"It was a trade off between what people want [to see on their wall] and more information," Carl added. He said larger designs may be made available in the future.

To create a family tree, customers create accounts at, input their family's data and choose a design and a frame.

"The trees may not say that someone was, say, in the Civil War, but the dates on the tree will lead to those stories," Nancy commented.

"We want the art to become a conversation piece," Carl said.

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