We had a family reunion in our family a week ago. My sister-in-law and I began planning it seven months before it actually happened. While she did most of the actual work, I was in charge of the genealogy. I would like to share some of our projects, ideas and memories.
Planning the reunion was not without hitches and glitches. There were illnesses and deaths, along with family relocations and job changes before the actual reunion. None stopped the plans for the reunion, but made it more significant that after almost thirty years, the reunion was a necessity.
Projects were put on strict schedules so that they would be completed in time for the reunion. A physical site was selected and while some drove or flew across the United States, others were only as far away as eight miles. We selected a rustic, state park here in Nebraska. Some of the family camped, others stayed in cabins and still others sought out motels. The ages of those attending ranged from seventy-nine to two.
While everybody was free to do their own thing from visiting to swimming to hiking, biking and horseback riding, we were constantly reminded that we were there to celebrate our kindred relationships. Our great grandparents had sixteen children. Some of their children did not have children and none had more than four children. Our Kansas nephew, however, had to use two cars to transport his seven children and wife to the reunion.
To hold everybody's interest for three days, activities were planned for all ages. The first evening there was an icebreaker where everybody told how they were related, by blood or marriage, to the great grandparents who had the sixteen children. For some this taxed their genealogy wisdom. The second day there were special celebrations for key events that coincided with the reunion, such as a special retirement. The third day was Father's Day and there was a special singing, reading of a poem and acknowledgment of our fathers.
Special activities were planned for the children ages fourteen to two. There was a separate table that always contained pencils, paper, coloring books and crayons. They were also given bottles from which they could blow bubbles and watch them disappear into pine trees. There was never a video game present and they were challenged to make their own kind of fun. Because cell phone reception was non-existent, they were put away and the silence was appreciated.
My sister-in-law and I prepared a book which grew by the week all through the winter. She is artistic and created 395 pages of family photographs, grouped by each of the sixteen children. They were scanned, printed off on archival paper and placed with the family genealogy and memories, along with family recipes into large notebooks. The books were a highlight of the three day reunion and will provide all of us with constant memories not only of the reunion, but also of our ancestry. Family members who could not attend the reunion, sent messages to be shared. Those attending had three days to answer a three page quiz pertaining to the families. Prizes were awarded.
We solicited photographs from all descendants of our ancestral family. Thinking that we would only obtain current photographs, we were delighted that some shared old photographs that had been passed down through the generations. These were incorporated into the 395 page book. There were photographs that could not be identified. At the reunion these were displayed and many were identified. My laptop computer was available for people to view their genealogical information. Almost every family present had a digital camera. Those pictures will eventually be combined and placed on a DVD sent to everybody by this fall ... just in time to watch it snow and remember the family reunion.
While there are many ways to host a reunion, we were pleased with how ours turned out. It was a lot of work and we won't do this every year, but as older generations pass on, we feel a family reunion will be perpetuated by newer generations.
There are many web sites devoted to having a memorable family reunion, from the planning stages to the actual event. To find several of these, check out Cyndi's List at Reunions. Make your reunion happen, enjoy it and leave with special memories that will last a life time.