Old photos and lists of dates can get a little tedious and it might be time to get to know some of your living family in person for a change. One way to do this is with a family reunion. It might seem like a pretty daunting task to organize, but it can certainly be worth it. You can meet people you know in name only and you can actually do a little genealogy research while you’re at it. If you’re thinking about it, here are some tips to help you get going with a genealogy-themed family reunion:
Find Someone to Help
Depending on the size of your intended event, you will likely want at least one other person to give you a hand with this. Check out among your siblings or cousins to see if anyone would be interested. It would be helpful if then enjoy genealogy but it really doesn’t matter. Pick someone you’re close to because you’re probably going to be in touch with them a lot, and you need to rely on them to follow through.
The Basic Details
You’ll need to know the who, what, and where of your family reunion right from the beginning. If you can plan a location that is important to your family, like an old home, that would even better. Pick a date that has some significance, like the big birthday of an older relative.
Just don’t leave all the details to “be arranged later”. It’s a little frustrating for your relatives to have all the details up in the air. Be flexible, but have things decided before you start inviting. You also need to figure out which branches of your family should come. Everyone should be somewhat closely related or folks are going to feel awkward with a bunch of barely-related strangers.
Don’t try to hid your intentions when you plan this. Folks are going to expect a family reunion as a social event, so don’t turn it into a conference or academic meeting. At the same time, let people know what your hopes are. Ask for old photos or heirlooms when you’re getting people involved.
Fun and Games
Having everyone together to talk about relatives will get dull very quickly, especially among the non-genealogists of the group. Don’t let your guests get bored. Activities, events and games are easy enough to arrange and can be a load of fun for everyone. Websites like Family-Reunion.com have lists of potential activities well-suited for large family reunion groups. Get it all arranged and planned out, and have schedules available as people arrive so they can plan their own day accordingly. You don’t need to schedule every moment though. A lot of older folks would be fine sitting around and just chatting, so have some free time too.
Get in Lots of Supplies
Since you are doing this for genealogy reasons, be ready to record as much info as you can. Keep notepads and pencils everywhere, and pre-print some blank family group sheets or pedigree charts, questionnaires or contact forms to help out further. Have extra memory cards for your cameras, and maybe have a voice recorder (or two) at hand. Can you afford a photographer? Hire someone, or rope in a volunteer to go around and take pictures of everyone. Have addressed envelopes (with stamps) ready to hand out to those relatives who have things at home, but didn’t think to bring them. That will encourage them to send you whatever photos, letters or newspaper clippings they have in their attics. A portable scanner is another must, to digitize all the photos people bring but aren’t planning on letting you keep.
After the Reunion
Whether they care about genealogy or not, all those relatives who come to your reunion will want some mementos of their trip. Get everyone’s address and send out a newsletter or memory book to everyone who was there. Fill it with photos, a few family tree charts, stories that were told, some narrative about what happened that day, any interesting history that was learned and a full contact list of who was there so that everyone can keep in touch if they want after.
When it’s all said and done, not only will your family reunion bring you some immediate genealogy resources, it can help you build future bonds within your family, which may help you even more later in the future.