7    Sep 20101 comment

Family reunions: Remembering

Wouldn't you like to meet all those people you've discovered and who now appear on your family tree?

This is the time to start planning for next summer - the most popular season for such events - so here are some tips and resources to help you get together with your far-flung relatives in person.

For even more on family reunions, see  another previous MyHeritage Genealogy Blog post which provided more tips, resources and a 12-step "getting organized" outline to plan a family reunion.

Don't forget that your family website at MyHeritage is a great way to stay in touch with prospective family reunion attendees. Share pre-event planning and programs, and then provide - post-reunion - photos and videos of the reunion for the whole family to see. It will encourage those who didn't or couldn't attend the event to show up next time.

 "A Good, Sacred Memory From a Family Reunion," in The Huffington Post by Al Eisele expressed his feelings as he returned from his family's reunion of the descendants of his German immigrant grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth Eisele.


Fourteen of 18 living first cousins and siblings - in their 60s-80s - their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren met in Iowa. The original 23 grandchildren produced 72 great-grandchildren, who have produced 126 great-great-grandchildren, along with 35 great-great-great-grandchildren.

The descendants live across the US, many in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota. As in most families, Eisele's family is a microcosm of society:

... widows and widowers, single parents and divorced parents, farmers and doctors and lawyers and priests and corporate executives and Wall Street investment managers and high school teachers and college administrators and government officials and yes, even journalists like myself are among them.

Eisele mentions his mother's funeral where he  quoted from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov:   

 "You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days."

A common feature of family reunions is the opening speech by the organizer or someone designated to welcome everyone. Experts say not to skip on the emotion - getting all those people together in one place after decades (or longer) of absence can be a very emotional event for everyone.

If it is a first-ever reunion, there's even more emotion at recalling the common ancestor/s of all those descendants, who were responsible for this first gathering.

The first tip: Write it out, put it into a Word document, increase the font size to 18pt and print it out. You won't need reading glasses to glance down and see if you've forgotten anything. This tip is used by many conference speakers, including myself. 

In the opening talk, welcome everyone, honor the ancestors from whom you all descend, and make acknowledgements, which can include lighting candles for deceased family members, wishing those who are ill a full recovery, naming those who traveled the greatest distance or the shortest, thank those who helped organize and implement the event, introduce new family members (spouses, babies, etc.), introduce the most senior relatives and more. Always thank people individually (you will need your printout for this!).

Here are more resources:

TheRagens.com: Tips for  developing family reunion icebreakers, a first-step pre-reunion survey, a list of planning books, tools and more.



Better Home and Garden's Reunion Planning Guide

Have you attended a family reunion? Have you helped plan one? How many reunions have you attended? Share your experiences with us.

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  1. My family has participated in several family reunions. As a child we would yearly attend reunions of both sets of my grandparents. Now as an adult, my parents are the grandparents. Although we still have my grandparents reunions, they are less often and definitely huge! This last year we began a new tradition with just my parents that everyone in the family really enjoyed. My brothers created an ancestor card game. The playing cards show photos of our ancestors, and are color coded to link each generation. It was exciting for the younger kids to see who they came from, and how we all linked together. It was really inexpensive and pretty simple to do. The best part was that at the end of the reunion each family came away with their own full set of ancestor cards! That's the best way I have found of including the entire family in fun, the past and the present! My brothers have set up a site that shows you how to create ancestor cards for your family/families. It only requires uploading your family pictures and link information, and then you can begin to play. visit ourfamilypastime.com for details.

    This year my family is in charge of my grandparents reunion. It is really overwhelming! My brother created a reunion blog to get everyone excited and involved and informed with all that is going to happen. In years past we have held many games and competitions between cousins. Those seem to be the most enjoyed. We also have games that mingle the entire family allowing people to meet various second or third cousins or new spouses and kids. The biggest effort is to get people to come. Once they are there, everyone seems to really enjoy the time to catch up and reconnect. And never forget to bring plenty of food!!

    Thank you for your ideas and information! They will be really helpful in planning our reunion this year.

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