Back to index
Ten ways to incorporate family history into a family reunion
19 August 2007
As I write these words I am in Cincinnati, Ohio to attend the Potter Family Reunion.
The reunion was a big success with four generations of John Potter and Margaret Garbally
descendants attending. There were many activities, such as a golf outing, corn hole tournament,
bingo, scavenger hunt, and water balloon toss contest. It appeared that all 115 participants had a
As the family genealogist, I spent much of the eight hour reunion working on the family
history and recording the event for future generations. Family reunions are one of the best
opportunities to gather information for your family history. Here are 10 tips on how to do so:
- A pedigree chart or descendant chart is a great way to educate and share genealogical
information. Either will start many conversations and probably a few debates and spark an interest
in genealogy in younger generations.
- Family group sheets can be distributed so that additional information can be added and
corrections can be made to the family data. I advise you collect the family group sheets or
correction forms at the reunion. If they are taken home to be filled out, it is likely that they will be
forgotten. George Morgan, in his book Your Family Reunion, suggests having two sets of family
group sheets. One to hand out and a master set placed in a binder close to the genealogical chart.
All the corrections are then made in the master set.
- Make a display of family photographs and important family documents and put it in a
prominent place. The documents could include items such as copies of birth and marriage
certificates, pension records, homestead records, wills, etc. Also include unidentified photographs
or documents. Clearly mark these items, asking for any information about the people in the
photograph or the names on the document. Provide paper and pencil for comments.
- A family artifact display could be a second display or could be incorporated into the
photograph display. Items such as clothes, diaries, letters, bibles, calling cards, quilts, military
items, and jewelry make an interesting exhibit.
- A map showing the family migration is an outstanding addition to any genealogy chart.
This could include the American migration and/or the migration from overseas. There are several
computer programs on the market which can help with this project. Family Tree Maker genealogy
software has a built in map feature. Family Atlas (www.familyatlas.com) and Map My Family
Tree (http://www.progenygenealogy.com/map-my-family-tree.html) are both software programs
designed specifically for this purpose.
- A time line which combines historical events and family events is an excellent way to
show how historical events influenced our ancestors’ lives. Major events such as wars, natural
disasters, and plagues can be used to create the time line. Local events relevant to an ancestor can
also be used. Legacy Family Tree genealogy program deluxe edition has a time line option
included in the software package. Genealogy Time Line
(http://pw1.netcom.com/~genealogy/genealogy_timeline.htm) is software that is designed
specifically for making time lines. There are also some free sites on the Internet that will help
make a time line.
- An area set up for interviews can be a useful addition to any reunion. Use a small audio
recorder and/or video recorder to interview family members. Start with the oldest or ill members
and work downward. Once people see what is happening, everyone will want to get in on the act!
- Creating a family cookbook at the reunion or ahead of time. Old family recipes can be
used and combined with family history facts. For example, Grandma’s peach cobbler recipe could
feature a story about Grandma’s life. Current family recipes incorporated in with the old recipes
also makes a nice book.
- A family history book can be created for the reunion. Most genealogy programs help
with this project. It is a major undertaking and will need to be started at least a year in advance. A
simpler alternative is a heritage storybook. This is a way to share the family history using photos.
My daughter, Marie, and I created a heritage storybook for the reunion this year using Creative
Memories software and printing services but there are many other options for this type of project.
- A genealogy presentation of your findings is a good way to showcase your
genealogical research. You can do this by presenting a general overview of the family; focusing on
one family line; or by concentrating on a famous or favorite ancestor. This type of presentation
will emphasize the importance of sharing information and may promote an interest in genealogy.
The result could be some volunteers to help with the family research.
If there is a family reunion in your immediate future, I would suggest that you try one or
two of these suggestions at your next reunion. It takes some preparation and effort but it is well
worth the effort.
Back to index