Sharing Family History: More reunion activities

Sharing Family Histor: More reunion activitiesBy Barry J. Ewell

Family reunions provide many opportunities to share in learning about and celebrating a common ancestry.  The following are additional ideas and activities that can easily be incorporated into a family reunion.

Memory T-shirts
If you have more than one branch of an extended family attending your reunion, consider identifying each branch with a different colored shirt.  You can…

  • Incorporate the family history theme.
  • Scan in a photo of the branch’s progenitor and print it out on an iron-on transfer with identifiers such as “Joe’s Kid” or “Joe’s Grandkid.”
  • Color-coded photo t-shirts make it easy to tell at a glance who is related to who.
  • Color-coded family tree name tags offer a more inexpensive variation.

Photo swap
Invite attendees to bring their old, historic family photos to the reunion, including pictures of people (great, great-grandpa), places (churches, cemetery, the old homestead) and even previous reunions.

  • Encourage everyone to label their photos with the names of those photographed, the date of the photo, and their own name and an ID number (a different number to identify each photo).
  • If you can get a volunteer to bring a scanner and laptop computer with a CD burner, then set up a scanning table and create a CD of everyone’s photos.
  • Encourage people to bring more photos by offering a free CD for each 10 photos contributed.
  • The rest of the CDs you can sell to interested family members to help defray costs of the scanning and CD burning.
  • If your family isn’t very tech-savvy, then set up a table with the photos and include signup sheets where people can order copies of their favorites (by name and ID number).

Family tree wall chart
Create a large family tree chart to display on a wall, including as many generations of the family as possible.

  • Family members can use it to fill in the blanks and correct any inaccurate information. Wall charts are popular with reunion attendees as they help people visualize their place within the family.
  • The finished product also provides a great source of genealogical information.

Heritage cookbook
Invite attendees to submit favorite family recipes — from their own family or one passed down from a distant ancestor. Ask them to include details on, memories of and a photo (when available) of the family member best known for the dish. The collected recipes can then be turned into a wonderful family cookbook. A great fundraising project for the following year’s reunion!

Tour into the past
If your family reunion is held near where the family originated, then schedule a trip to the old family homestead, church or cemetery. Use this as an opportunity to share family memories, or go a step further and recruit the clan to clean up the ancestral cemetery plots or research the family in old church records (be sure to schedule with the pastor in advance).

Family history skits & re-enactments
Using stories from your own family history, have groups of attendees develop skits or plays that will retell the tales at your family reunion. You can even stage these reenactments at places that are of importance to your family such as homes, schools, churches and parks (see Tour into the Past above). Non-actors can get into the fun by modeling vintage clothing or ancestral outfits.

Oral history odyssey
Find someone with a video camera who is willing to interview different members about the family.

  • If the reunion is in honor of a special event (Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th Anniversary) ask people to talk about the guest(s) of honor.
  • Or ask questions on other select memories, such as growing up on the old homestead.

Memorabilia table
Set up a table for attendees to bring and display treasured family memorabilia – historic photos, military medals, old jewelry, family bibles, etc. Be sure all items are carefully labeled and the table is always hosted.