What better place to share the exciting results of your genealogical passion than the family reunion? Sharing the results of your research will provide a sense of shared history for reunion participants.
Ways to Share Your Genealogical Research
One way to incorporate shared family history into the reunion is to hold it near a place of significance to your family such as a homestead or cemetery. As for timing, you could hold the reunion on an important historical date (for example, the anniverary of your ancestors' arrival in the U.S., a wedding, or birth date).
On a smaller scale, you could use family history facts to make games such as crossword puzzles, word games, or scavenger hunts. Icebreakers and introductory games help set the tone for reunion fun.
You could use the information you've learned in your research to put together a display for your relatives. Consider including books, historical documents (photocopies only, please!), pictures, and maps.
Some families include workshops as a part of the reunion programs. You might present information on a single fascinating ancestor or a particular branch of the family. Or, you could do a presentation on how to do genealogy research. Demonstrating, for example, how you find all of your information and including some obstacles and challenges that fascinate you. Or, engage a speaker with a particular genealogical specialty that will intrigue your members.
Consider using storytelling as a method to share and encourage older members to join in sharing tales. Many families take time during their reunions to remember legendary ancestors -- funny, heroic, outlaws, famous or infamous.
What Was it Like Back Then?
Style shows and demonstrations give your family an opportunity to bring history to life.
Style shows are a way to engage many family members because they demonstrate an aspect of history that might only otherwise be seen in history books. A reunion is a perfect time to go through family trunks and boxes full of period clothing. All ages can participate, if clothes are all sizes.
Demonstrations can include the way things were done and made in the "good olde days of yore." Assess the skills and talents of family members. Who can demonstrate whittling, caning, quilting, butter churning, ice cream making, calligraphy, or knitting? Consider having a family member do a cooking demonstration of an old family recipe.
Display Your Family Tree
Everyone is fascinated by family trees. Consider making a large wall chart and including pictures as well as names and other data or information. Whether the family tree is a simple chart of a fancy one -- pictures, symbols, art, color -- your family will delight in it.
A family reunion is also the perfect place to display and solve the mystery of materials, papers and photos you can't identify. Ask members to bring mystery photos. Indicate who brought each photo, then ask everyone to look at them and see if they can identify the people in the pictures. This is an opportunity for some of your older members to shine because they know the people and places, occasions and reasons for the pictures Tape (video/audio) their reactions and stories surrounding photos.
Who Are You?
It is not unusual for members of family reunions to be meeting one another for the first time. For very large reunions, name tags or badges are important. They help people relax because no one has to worry about not recognizing someone or not knowing or remembering a name.
Consider using baby or childhood pictures, names of the ancestor from whom the member is descended and think about color-coding name tags by family branch. Another way to do it is to list relationships (for example, "Hi I'm Trudy's son, Christopher" or "I'm Carol's grandson and Trudy's son, Christopher").
How often have you wished you knew what an ancestor sounded or looked like? Make a special effort to record your reunions so your descendants will have a record of your family's faces and voices. You can record or photograph individuals or entire groups. If your reunion is very large, a professional photographer often makes good sense.
Taping interviews with family members offers a powerful addition to family history since the remembrances are in their own words, with their own inflections and expressions.
Genealogy Plays a Big Role
Your family reunion is important and so is your interest in genealogy. Combine the two to expand your audience and encourage your searching.