by Bob Brooke
It's the end of summer, and thousands of families across the country have gathered under pavilions in parks, by the cool blue of nearby pool, or on grassy lawns at grandma's house to reminisce at the annual family reunion. Usually, these affairs are informal picnics with relatives from the immediate area. But what about a reunion of the extended family?
One special reward of ancestor hunting is sharing a common blood bond with others in an extended family. While some people may simply not want to know their great uncles or second cousins, others will find their holidays, their vacations, and their lives in general given extra dimension and pleasure if they reunite with their extended families.
After a family genealogist has been collecting family history for a while, he or she may want to try assembling family, itself. Getting a reunion together, especially a national or international one, can be a daunting task.
A good place to begin is with close relatives- sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. Get a consensus from them on the possibility of a reunion. Some may even volunteer to help get it organized.
It's a good idea to start planning the reunion a year or more in advance. Choosing a centrally located spot to hold it is most important. If there are quite a few members traveling a great distance, the reunion should be held within an hour or so's drive of the nearest airport. This way, transportation from the airport can be arranged if needed.
Accommodations are also important. If the extended family consists of members from different economic levels, it may be necessary to find a spot with several kinds of accommodations-hotels, bed and breakfasts, camping, and members' homes-as well as play areas for the children nearby. Of course, it's even better if the gathering is held near an old homestead or other historical place associated with the family.
Some families chose to hold their reunions at resorts, reserving a block of rooms for those attending. Many resorts in both mountain and seashore areas have reunion packages, especially in the less-crowded off season. Using a resort has its advantages, too. There's usually something for everyone-games for adults and kids, swimming, tennis, golf, etc.
Holding the reunion over a weekend allows plenty of time for family members to get acquainted, yet have some time to themselves. Possibly, a special day outing can be planned for Saturday. A typical reunion might begin with a welcome reception on Friday evening, followed by planned activities during the day on Saturday, a special reunion dinner on Saturday night, and ending with a brunch on Sunday morning.
On the day of the reunion the family genealogist can have Pedigree Charts and Family Group Sheets available (blank or filled out) and set out displays of family photographs, medals, or other family heirlooms. The program itself should include some get-acquainted time, a chance to tell family stories, an informal talk by someone on some aspect of the family history, and a reunion photograph.
Contacting everyone is easy. After all the arrangements have been made, a special mailing can be sent to all family members with a deadline date for reunion reservations. A web site can be set up by someone in the family with knowledge of and access to the Internet. Today, this is the fastest way to contact those who may be on the fringe or have changed addresses often. The web site can also be a used for a virtual family reunion, as family members around the world who can't make the actual reunion send messages and photos to the others to be shared at the actual reunion.
Besides the fun and good feelings a family get-together can generate, reunions are a great place to enlist other relatives in ancestor-hunting projects. Some family history mysteries may be solved, too.