Family Reunion T Shirt

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One of my music students came to class wearing this fun reunion shirt and I just couldn’t help but share it with you.  Such a fun and simple design. Notice the family name at the top and the date and place at the  bottom of the shirt. 

We’ve done a lot of reunion shirts over the years but when this cute little guy wore an old shirt his dad wore I was thrilled.  Keeping old reunion t-shirts year after year means you always have something to wear to the family reunion!

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Time Capsule Dig

Family Reunion Time Capsule

Five years later and we finally got to dig up our time capsule!  Five years ago at our Stewart family reunion we had every family member fill out a questionnaire.  We asked questions about the present, their predictions for the future and invited everyone to set some goals that they hoped to accomplish by the time we opened the capsule in 2013.

On the 2nd day of our reunion this year, we went to Grandma’s house where the time capsule was buried to begin our search for the capsule we had buried five years ago.  We followed a very funny set of clues that cousin Tyler made up to find the capsule. 

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The first clue took us to the "”three pronged wooded fork” and then led us to a spot under Grandma’s bathroom window…. but there was no capsule there.

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Retracing our steps we realized that we had misinterpreted the clues and on this attempt found the time capsule buried at the corner of the house.  It took a little digging and we broke the lid off of the capsule but we found all our questionnaires safe and sound.

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Family History Church

We read our questionnaires at  the conclusion of our annual family history “church” we hold at each reunion.  Some of us found that we had remained focused during the five years and completed our goals and some found that their goals had been forgotten.  Some of us predicted what the price of gas would be in 2013 pretty accurately and some found they were living in a fantasy land. We had questioners from old boyfriends that had attended our reunion that year and from a dear Grandpa who had passed away.

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Our family time capsule was a big hit and family members voted to make another time capsule next year.  We’re already working on the questions for our new questionnaire.

Treasure Hunts and Scavenger Hunts

Puzzle Treasure Hunt

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Take a picture of where the treasure will be hidden.  Cut up the picture of the location into several pieces. (The older the participants the more pieces)

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Hide the pieces in a designated area. Players search for the pieces then try to assemble the puzzle to get the prize or treasure.

Sandbox Treasure Hunt

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Sandbox treasure hunts are tried and true hunts.  Hide pennies, nickels and quarters in sand or saw dust.  Be sure and keep the sawdust and sand contained in a #10 tub, children’s pool or on a sheet of plastic. 

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Who’s Got the Key? Treasure Hunt

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Gather as many spare keys that you can find. You will need a lot of keys so ask family members to bring their keys also. (You can purchase large lots of key blanks on eBay for under $10.00) Buy a lock and key. Put the lock on a treasure chest or box of some sort with hidden treasure in it. Hide all of the keys including the key that will open the lock. Everyone searches for a key, when they find a key they try it in the lock- if it doesn’t work they search for another key until someone finds the correct key and opens the treasure.

Digital Camera Treasure Hunt

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This is such a fun idea for a family reunion. You’ll need one digital camera for each team. Give each team a list of things to take pictures of.  If you want to put a family history spin on this hunt, challenge teams to find:

Someone who served in a war
Oldest relative at the reunion
Youngest relative at the reunion
Relative that  has won a trophy
Someone that had a rotary dial phone
Relative who came the farthest distance to the reunion
Someone who has lived out  of the country
The couple that has been married the longest

You get the idea- it’s fun to really make teams talk to their older relatives to find out the information.  Be sure and take a team picture with each relative.

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Cousin Bobbie planned a digital camera hunt as part of our Thanksgiving fun a few years ago.  We had to find as many things on our list as possible, take a picture of them and return back to the meeting area and determine the winner.  We had to find things like a scarecrow, pumpkin, cat, turkey and Christmas lights.

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Look for part 2 or this article next week and in the meantime- happy hunting!

Genealogy Themed Photo Books

I’m so lucky because I had some ancestors that wrote things down and family members, like my Mom and my brother, Scott who made sure old photos were labeled, digitalized and stored safely.  My contribution to their efforts is to share some of my ancestors life stories in digital photo books.

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Tell Your Ancestor’s Story

Besides making a reunion scrapbook each year, I have also made family history or genealogy books. This is fun to do if you have a lot of stories about an ancestor. The book pictured below is about an ancestor and the decision they made to come to America. I didn’t try to tell their whole life story just the events that led up to their coming to America and their arrival here.

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As you might expect, part of the challenge when making this type of photo book is getting enough pictures to go in the book.  I handled that problem by finding generic pictures on the internet and using them in my books. For instance, if Grandma got a 1950’s blue Schwinn bike for her 8th birthday search for that image on the internet and add it to your book. (Note: be sure images are not copywrited) In the picture below you see a page that is telling about a conversation our ancestors had in their kitchen.  Of course I didn’t have a picture of their kitchen but I did find a picture of cooking utensils they might have had in their kitchen and included that in my photo book.

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I repeated the same idea with this page.  Although not personable to my ancestor it is representative of life when the story took place.

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The best pages are those that feature actual photos of ancestors to illustrate real stories from their life’s. 

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The easiest photo books to create are those of loved ones that are still living.  When my Mom celebrated her latest milestone birthday we gave her a book of lessons learned and fun experiences we had growing up with her.  We titled it “Teachings, Tall Tales and Inspirations” and Mom loves it.

Sharing Your Photo Book

You can buy copies of your book to give as gifts to family members, auction them off to raise money for your reunion or just let family members know the book is there and let everyone buy their own copy.

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Emory University concluded in a recent study of children ages 14-16 that “a child’s ability to retell family stories was linked to lower instances of depression, anxiety and less acting out due to frustration and anger”.  There is an African saying that "a people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots."Kind of reminds me of my favorite reunion quote, “A tree without roots falls over.”  The moral to this story- share the stories of your ancestors whether it be around the campfire or in a genealogy themed photo book.

Aunt MO

Scrapbooking Your Reunion with Digital Photo Books

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After we’ve played all the reunion games, roasted all the marshmallows, sang all the songs and I’ve taken 700 pictures of the action, I can hardly wait to get back home and see what amazing pictures I’ve taken of my family reunion.  I load my pictures on my computer and begin to make a family reunion DIGITAL scrapbook.

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Making these reunion scrapbooks is fun for me- much less time consuming than the “olden days” when I had to measure, cut and paste everything. And did I mention the MESS- there is NO mess with digital scrapbooking. You just slide your digital photos into predesigned layouts, add digital stickers and some suitable digital paper backgrounds and and then you send it off to the printer. Setup and cleanup are literally as easy as pushing a button. Everything is contained within your computer- NO SETTING UP OR PICKING UP AFTERWARDS. 

I recently read an blog by Bradylou that lists about 10 reasons why digital scrapbooking is a good alternative to traditional scrapbooking- she has some great ideas- read her blog at bradylou.com

I always make a reunion scrapbook for myself and one for Grandma and Grandpa (taking advantage of BOGO sales.)  Everyone enjoys reliving reunion memories when they visit Grandma and look through the books.

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I use two scrapbook companies for my digital scrapbooks- Picaboo and Mixbook.

Picaboo Photo Books

I prefer Picaboo when I have a lot of photos I want to include in my book. Picaboo does not force you to spend hours uploading photos before you can create a project. Rather, with Picaboo installed, you can make a complete, ready-to-order book in a short amount of time. Picaboo has amazing customer service and I love their “chat” service. When I have an idea but don’t know how to implement it I just chat with their helpful costumer service people.  Picaboo has cool and FREE backgrounds you can use- thousands of them- I love the pizza one pictured below.

Picaboo is running a deal this week for up to 40%.

Up to 40% off Classic books and calendars. Ends 7/16. Use code: SUNNYDAYS.

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Mixbook Scrap Books

Mixbook does not require that you download their software. The feature I like most about Mixbook is that it allows you to choose one of their professional designs (or you can start from scratch) and easily and quickly create a photo book. I also like the “stickers” you can add to yourbook.  You can move, crop, rotate, pan and zoom on photos; add stickers and backgrounds; and create custom layouts.

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Right now Mixbook has a deal going-

Deal:Get $15 off $50!
Code:15OFF50
Valid: 07/12/12 4:00 am PST – 07/16/12 11:59pm PST
Restrictions: This offer is only valid with coupon code 15OFF50. This offer cannot be combined with other coupons, vouchers, Groupons, or applied after an order has been placed. Discount applies only to completed projects. No adjustments on previous purchases. Shipping and taxes will apply.
Offer expires 07/16/2012 (11:59 pm PST).

Once your scrapbook is completed you can sell additional copies for family members that preorder them or auction them off at your net reunion auction as a fundraiser.

Check Aunt Mo’s blog next week to find out how to make genealogy or family history photo books.

Planning a Genealogy Themed Family Reunion

Summer is family reunion season- a time to bring together family members that share the  roots and branches of the same family tree.  But WHO do those roots represent and how deep do they go? 

A family reunion is the perfect place to share the family history and genealogy of your own family tree.  Here’s ten tips to help you plan a genealogy themed family reunion.

1.   Make a Wall or Poster Sized Family Tree

To put your family history into perspective print a large wall chart of your genealogy. A professional source for printing your family tree is http://www.ancestryprinting.com/.  They specialize in printing genealogy charts and offer several different formats.  Hang the chart in a central location at your reunion and watch as family members explore their heritage in a way that is easily understood.

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2. Hold a Genealogy “Church”

Give a family history presentation about one of your ancestors each year.  These shouldn’t be long, boring presentations, but  stories and pictures  of your ancestors’ life and history.   Highlight an ancestor each year and before long family members will have a repertoire of family stories they can recite.

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3. Serve Food from Your Homeland

Serve food from your “homeland”.  If your roots go back to Scotland serve scones or shortbread or if you claim Ireland as your homeland serve an Irish stew.

4. Share Photos

My brother, Scott, has become the official family photo organizer.  He has worked with our parents to categorize and label photos from our families history.  He makes these photos available on online storage sites such as Flickr.  You can ask family members to bring their old, historic family photos to the reunion.  Be sure photos are labeled with the date and location the photo was taken.  A reunion is a great place  to identify the people in photos.  Ask someone to bring a scanner and laptop computer with CD burner, then set up a scanning table and create a CD of everyone’s photos or sign up to have photos printed at a later date.

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5. Play a Genealogy game

Create games using game show themes such as “Wheel of Ancestors” or “Family Feud”.  Ask questions to test your families’ knowledge of their heritage.  Make a crossword puzzle, coloring book or word search to help our family learn about their ancestors.

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6. Heritage Cookbook

Collect family favorite recipes.  Include a little history about the recipe and why it’s a family favorite.  Use a professional cookbook printing service or put together your own book at a local copy store.

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7. Family History Skits & Re-enactments

Using stories from your own family history, act out fun family stories and experiences.  Everyone in the Stewart family knows the story of Aunt Ann and the banana because we acted it out during our family history church.

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8. Tour Family Homestead or Cemetery

If your family reunion is held near where the family originated, then schedule a trip to the old family homestead, church or cemetery. You may also want to hold your reunion near the family home or in the town where one of your ancestors were born, raised, married or buried.

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9. Involve the Kids

Get children involved in building your family tree by using Family Reunion Helper’s “Super Sleuth” Challenge which guides children through the process of discovering their family history.  The challenge is part of the “Family Heritage”  reunion theme.  Create a coloring page of your family crest for children to color or help them dress in authentic costumes from the country their ancestors originated from.

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10. Life Histories

We value the life stories of our ancestors so much. I wish I could say that all of our family are keeping wonderful descriptive journals for their posterity but we aren’t, so for more that 20 years we have asked our family to take a few minutes to fill out a “journal” page at our reunion. On the journal page, they record their experiences from the past year and then Grandma stores the pages in special binders.  Some day these journal pages can be compiled into family history books.

Questions that are typically asked on the journal page are- What is the best thing that happened to you this year? What is the saddest thing that happened to you this year? What was the best movie you saw this year? For a more complete list of questions and sample journal pages, please download Journal Page Printable.

Anyone who has worked on their family history knows how exciting it can be. The more information they discover about their ancestors, the more real these people become. By learning about ones ancestors, it helps us understand ourselves, our heritage and the roots and branches of our family tree.

Helpful Hints for Building Your Family Tree

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Have you ever thought about your family tree and wondered which branch you fell from? Lots of people want to know more about their ancestry and past, but might not know where to start. The truth of the matter is that there are lots of ways to find out where you came from and what your relatives were like. It is not easy, but it is completely possible.

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Interview Grandpa

Talking with your older family relatives, and while you are at it, take down their information as well. While it’s not pleasant to think about these things, it is important to remember that they won’t always be around. Eventually, your children or your grandchildren are going to want to know where they came from as well. Ask your older relatives about their families and history. You can even use a tape recorder to document their thoughts. Can they remember anything about what their parents or grandparents did? At the very least, that will give you a good place to start.

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Discover Your Ancestry by Checking Official Records

Remember to hit the records as well. You can find paper records at the library and electronic ones online at ancestry databases. For example, looking up obits can give you a great deal of information about different people, their occupations, and their families.

 

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Check for old news articles that mention family members. You never know when someone did something important. The more research you do, the more there is to learn. Also look around for any old documents that your family may have kept. Are there journals, old year books, property deeds or any other paperwork in the attic from the people who came before you?

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Family Reunions- a Great Genealogy Resource

Perhaps the most information rich place to add branches to your family tree is your family reunion, especially those reunions that include extended family and branches of your family tree.  You can even get children involved in building your family tree by using Family Reunion Helper’s “Super Sleuth” Challenge which guides children through the process of discovering their family history.

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Consider having a family history or genealogy “church” during your reunion, a time where the family gathers together to learn about their ancestors.  Make sure presentations are done creatively and with enthusiasm  to keep the attention of the younger members of your family.  Some fun ideas for your family history church can be found at Family Reunion Helper.

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Keep Accurate Genealogy Records

When you have all of the raw information in front of you, don’t forget to record it. It is easy to get distracted by minutiae. Take a moment to write down what you learned, whether it is in a notebook or in a series of files online. Remember that you are also doing this for posterity, and the more effectively you archive your own efforts, the more likely it will be that your work is going to be useful for the people who come after you.

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Rewards from Building Your Family Tree

Building a family tree takes time, patience and work, but anyone who has delved into the history of their family knows that, the more information they discover about their ancestors, the more real these people become, and the more fascinating. Building your family tree is a wonderful way to join the past with the present and by learning about ones ancestors, it helps us understand ourselves, our heritage and the roots and branches of our family tree.

Make a Family Tree

Look what I found-

I was excited to find this beautiful family tree template.  Using the directions on this site you can make an elegant family tree.  Instructions include printable tree and label templates to show the branches of your family.  Can’t wait to try it!

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Memorykeeping Projects and Keepsakes – Crafts – Martha Stewart

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Make a Family Tree Instructions

Family Reunion Church- Discovering the Roots and Branches of Your Family Tree

Our family reunions are full of fun games, unusual activities, creative crafts and delicious things to eat but we also take time to learn about and honor our ancestors during “Family History Church”.

Most of our family history church meetings are relatively simple but we have done some amazing and memorable things. Several years ago, we included an airplane ticket to Scotland with our family reunion invitation.

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During the reunion, we made a huge “airplane” out of tents, tarps and lawn chairs and took off, in our makeshift plane, for a visit to our ancestral home. We lifted off to the sounds of recorded jet sound effects, and our flight attendants served us peanuts and pop. As we approached the halfway point, our plane developed engine problems and we crashed.

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After the crash, we were greeted by a beautiful angel dressed all in white who led us to a secluded area of our campground where we were visited by six of our ancestors who shared their life stories with us. These “ancestors” were actually family members who memorized a script and dressed in costumes from the era in which they lived.

This was a very elaborate family history church and took a lot of advance preparation but it’s an activity that family members still talk about.

Most of our family history churches are not nearly as complicated.  We always begin our family history church with a prayer and a song about family history/genealogy.

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A few years ago we began spotlighting two family members, a child and an adult. We tell a little about the person and give them a few inexpensive gifts such as their favorite candy bar or soda. The next year those spotlighted choose another person to spotlight and so on.

I have the fun opportunity of giving a family history presentation about one of our ancestors each year.  These aren’t long, boring presentations but often include games such as “Wheel of Ancestors” or “Family Feud” and other fun activities.

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We have made crossword puzzles, coloring books and word searches to help our family learn about their ancestors. We have even acted out fun family stories and experiences that make us laugh.  Everyone in the Stewart family know the story of Aunt Ann and the banana because we acted it out during our family history church.

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We value the life stories of our ancestors so much. I wish I could say that all of our family are keeping wonderful descriptive journals for their posterity but we aren’t, so for more that 20 years we have asked our family to take a few minutes to fill out a journal page at our reunion. On the journal page, they record their experiences from the past year and then Grandma stores the pages in binders in hopes that some day we will compile them into family histories. Questions that are typically asked on the journal page are- What is the best thing that happened to you this year? What is the saddest thing that happened to you this year? What was the best movie you saw this year? For a more complete list of questions and sample journal pages, please download Journal Page Samples & Question Ideas.

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Anyone who has delved into the history of their family knows that, the more information they discover about their ancestors, the more real these people become, and the more fascinating. I love to learn the stories of the people that came before me and I love to share them with my family. Family history church is a wonderful way to join the past with the present and by learning about ones ancestors, it helps us understand ourselves, our heritage and the roots and branches of our family tree.

Aunt MO

"Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us,
we see the past, present and future."

Author: T.S. Eliot