Planning a Family Reunion- the Basics

I recently received a mailbag question from a visitor to Family Reunion Helper.  They asked,  “How do we plan a family reunion? Please give me specifics? Dates, locations, committees. How do we finance a family reunion?”

PEN 4

I have a lot of respect for someone who is building a family reunion from scratch.  I did it 25 years ago and although reunions can be a ton of work they are so worth it.

Family Reunion Helper has addressed all the questions asked above in previous blogs so I though it might be a good idea to put all those blogs together to be easily accessed if someone is planning a reunion for the first time.  Just click on the link below each heading to read more “back to the basics” about planning a family reunion.

Three Keys to a Successful Family Reunion

http://familyreunionhelper.com/3_keys_to_a_successful_family_reunion.php

Family Reunion Checklist and Timeline

http://familyreunionhelper.com/reunion_checklist.php

Family Reunion Committees

http://familyreunionhelper.com/committees.php

How to Pay for Your Reunion

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/2011/03/planning-to-pay-for-your-family-reunion/

Family Reunion Locations

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/2012/04/location-location-whats-your-favorite-family-reunion-location/

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/image4.png

Family Reunion Themes

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/2011/05/family-reunion-theme-ideas/

clip_image002

Aunt MO

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.

http://www.ancestryprinting.com/group.jpg

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.

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/clip_image008.jpg

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.

mom and dad o

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.

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/clip_image010.jpg

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.

clip_image002

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.

Image 0039

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.

clip_image002[4]

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.

clip_image002[6]

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.

Cruisin Family Reunion Theme

I’m so excited for our 2012 family reunion theme- cruisin’.  We will visit 6 different “ports” while camping out at Box Elder campground.

camp 2012 page1

Each of the 6 “original’ kids in my husband’s family will be responsible for one meal and a 2 hour block of time.  Every family is choosing a theme and planning their meal and activities around that theme.  During that 2 hours they can plan any activities, crafts or games they want.  This will give every family the opportunity to plan an activity they have always wanted to do or to choose a family reunion favorite.

camp 2012 page2

I’m pretty excited about this  reunion  format- I think it will relieve some of the stress I have when planning a reunion and give everyone a chance to make the reunion exactly the way they want.

Aunt MO

HINT: I got the backgrounds for these “beach” themed flyers from http://delightful-doodles.com/.

Memorial Day- the Start of Family Reunion Season

$5.00 off any Family Reunion Theme Package

DSC_0447

Memorial Day seems to mark the beginning  of summer and the family reunion season.   To help jumpstart your family reunion planning www.familyreunionhelper.com is offering $5.00 off any of our reunion themes for 5 short days- until June 1st.  (This includes only $19.99 theme packages)

First step is to select the family reunion theme packages that best fits your family.  Each reunion theme comes with free downloadable games, activities, recipes, printables and templates to simplify, inspire and  guide your reunion planning.

IMG_0141

You will need to  login or enter your credit card information before you can enter coupon code reunion2012 and receive $5.00 off your reunion package- but hurry, this coupon code expires June 1st 2012 at midnight!

camp 2011 095

Happy Reunion Planning!

Family Reunion in an Afternoon

wells party 041

You want to have a family reunion but…

You don’t have a 3 day weekend for your family reunion.

You don’t think you can stand listening to Uncle George’s lame jokes  for an entire weekend.

You can’t stand the thought of feeding all those hungry people.

Planning all those games and activities is just too overwhelming.

In my family reunion presentations I tell people that ANYTIME you get together with your family can be a family reunion.  There are no rules that say you have to spend a certain amount of time with your extended family to make it an “official” reunion.

A typical family reunion will assemble grandparents, aunts and uncles and tons of kids that share the same surname for a meal, some games and activities and maybe even some genealogy discussion and if all you have is a Saturday afternoon in the park then start planning!

Air show 116

Let’s look at a possible schedule for a possible family reunion in an afternoon.

Things to do in advance

Be sure to reserve your location if holding your reunion at a park or hall.  Ask family members to bring a sack lunch for the noon meal and make food assignments or ask everyone to bring a potluck dish for the evening meal.

Send out invitations

Include food assignments and items such as swim suits or softball equipment.  If you are planning to go swimming, golfing, bowling etc. include how much these activities will cost.

Choose a theme.  A family reunion doesn’t have to have a theme to be successful but creating a theme for a family reunion is a great way to interest people and make them more likely to attend. A reunion invitation that invites you to a “Prehistoric” reunion for Brontosaurs burgers is more interesting than an invitation that invites you  to a family reunion at “the park”. It also makes things more fun when it comes to being imaginative with food, games, activities, invitations and just about every other aspect of the reunion. 

10:30 Registration

Set up a registration table for attendees to receive a name tag and schedule of activities.  This is a great time to get family member’s phone numbers, email and home addresses.  Provide an activity  that family members can participate in while waiting for everyone to arrive.  Try a huge game of badminton or volleyball for the teenagers, sugar cookie decorating or a coloring page for the youngsters and printable Older Than Dirt Game for the older generation.

11:00  Ice Breaker getting to know you games.

  My favorite ice breaker game is DO YOU LOVE YOUR RELATIVE?

The group sits in a circle with room in the center.  The person that is “IT” does not have a chair and stands in the center of the circle. “IT” walks up to one of the people in the circle, points to someone and asks, “_________, do you love your relative?” The individual pointed to can say one of two things:

“Yes I love my relatives (everyone sitting in the circle must move to a new chair)

“No, I don’t love my relatives but I love everyone _____________________.” Fill in the blank with things like- everyone that is wearing green, everyone that likes chocolate, everyone that has a dog or everyone that wears glasses. (Only the people that meet the requirements move to a different chair.)

In both situations, the person that asks the question runs to sit on a chair. The person left standing, without a chair to sit on, is the new “IT”.

Family Reunion Helper has lots of fun Ice Breaker Games.  You will need to plan on playing two to three games.

12:00  Sack lunches and family photo

After lunch you will want to take a picture of your family.  It doesn’t need to be professional, just a record of who attended the reunion.

DSC_2413

1:00  Extra Curricular Activity

Arrange in advance for your family to go swimming, bowling, roller skating, hiking or a road rally scavenger hunt. Some families like to split up during this time so people can participate in several activities- some may go golfing while others shop or make a craft. This will be your major activity.  For some activities such as boating or visiting an amusement park you may need to schedule more time.

Family Reunion Pictures 312

3:00 Theme Activities Craft or Fund Raiser

If you have chosen a theme for your reunion now is the time to do some of those activities.  This is also the time to do any fund raising such as an auction or raffle.

4:30 Genealogy Spotlight and Business Meeting

Ask someone that is a good story teller to share an interesting story from your family history.  It is very important that this presentation appeal to all family members and includes pictures and props.  You may also want to take a few minutes to discuss any family business such as when and where to hold you next reunion.

5:00 Dinner

You may do a potluck dinner, a meal that reflects your reunion theme (dinosaur theme- Brontosaurus Burgers, western theme- chuck wagon beans etc.) Other simple meal ideas are a baked potato or taco bar, grilled burgers or have your favorite pizza place deliver a variety of pizzas.  Do not serve dessert at this time.

Cute hors3e [pictures PC condo 397

6:00 Talent Show Free Time

This is the time to let family members share their talents.  Play Let’s Make A Deal to keep everyone interested between acts.

7:00  Wrap it Up

Serve dessert and thank everyone for attending your reunion.  You will be tired and ready to clean up and go home but some family members will want to hang around and visit.  Put them to work helping you clean up. 

The  Branson Family Reunion web site list five reasons to have a family reunion.  One reason it lists is “Tradition”. “Tradition should be a big part of your family.  Taking the time to come together and teach (in a fun way) the tradition of your family will keep it alive and strong.”  Although planning a reunion can be a lot of work bringing your family together, if only for an afternoon, can be a rewarding way to keep traditions alive.

 

Aunt MO

Prehistoric, Caveman or Dinosaur Family Reunion

I love this family reunion theme!  It’s so flexible- with some minor tweaking your prehistoric reunion can become a dinosaur or caveman party. 

A “prehistoic” theme can be the perfect choice for someone celebrating a milestone birthday and adds some good natured fun to your celebration.

clip_image002[7]

One of the first family reunions I ever planned was a dinosaur reunion back in the early 80’s.  We made large, plywood dinosaur cut outs to decorate our reunion site.  We served Brontosaurs burgers and went on a hike to find giant dinosaur eggs.

clip_image002

To throw the perfect caveman party, you will need to look the part. You can find fun Caveman or Flintstones costumes and accessories at costume store or online. (A good resource for Flintstone costumes is http://www.flintstonecostumes.com/)  You can also fashion your own out costumes out of fake fur, and animal-print fabrics. Don’t forget unkempt hair, bare feet, bone necklaces and hair bows, clubs and spears!

clip_image002[5]

With this fun family reunion theme you can plan a Saber Tooth Tiger Cateye hike in the dark or challenge family members to work together to make a prehistoric pipeline. Prehistoric “baseball” is a silly way to enjoy America’s favorite pastime. 

clip_image002[11]

A fill in the blank invitation is included along with recipes and ideas for "Good Things to Eat". Don’t forget to print off the dinosaur Bunko score card and the dinosaur trivia printable and leave dinosaur footprints all over your reunion site with the footprint printable pattern. Reunion activities for one day or a weekend of prehistoric family fun!

image

For $19.95 you can let loose your families’ inner beast with family reunion helper’s Caveman theme package

Prehistoric Reunion Activities include;

  • Invitation printables
  • Dinosaur riddles
  • Dinosaur Trivia printable Game
  • Baking Soda Volcano instructions
  • "Lost World" Obstacle Course
  • Pet Rock Instructions
  • Dinosaur cookie decorating
  • prehistoric baseball
  • prehistoric pipeline
  • Dinosaur footprint painting
  • Dinosaur Bunko
  • "Good Things to Eat"
  • children’s games and activities
  • team building activities
  • dinosaur egg hunt
  • fossil painting
  • Slime recipe
  • costume helps
  • Saber Tooth Tiger cateye hike. A night time hike with flashlights.

Location, Location- What’s Your Favorite Family Reunion Location?

A real estate agent will tell you- location is everything when buying a house and family reunion planners will heartily agree that when planning a reunion- LOCATION is everything!

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location- where is it at and why do you go there?

For many families, returning to a much-loved reunion destination has become an annual tradition.  After several years that location may feel more like home than home itself.

Our Favorite Family Reunion Location

We have the greatest little reunion site It’s called Hansen Park in Elwood Utah.  It has a huge covered bowery with a kitchen, a fire pit, restrooms and even a baseball diamond and small basketball court.

image

image

Someone must have told the good people of Elwood what a treasure they have because they have now made it as difficult as possible to reserve the park and our family has just given up trying to get it- but if you can find a friend that lives in Elwood they may just be able to help you out.

Family Reunion Camping

image

In the years before Hansen Park and the years after- we have spent many family reunions in group site C and D in Box Elder Campground.  It’s a little more like “roughing it” then Hansen Park and the kids get dirtier because there is a lot more dirt.  It’s true camping and all of us except the mom’s that have kids that crawl love it.  There are lots of picnic tables, restrooms and beautiful shade trees. Parking can sometimes be a challenge but we’ve learned to adapt.

If you’re looking for a campground you can find a list of campgrounds in the US and make reservations at http://www.reserveamerica.com/

Family Reunion at the Lake

image

In the years that we had access to a boat we held our family reunions at Bear Lake.  The water is some of the bluest I’ve ever seen but hold your reunion in June and it will be some of the coldest water you’ve ever jumped in.  You can camp at locations such as Rendezvous Beach or rent a condo close by.

If you’re looking for  a list of lakes in North America you could use http://www.greatlakesnorthamerica.com/ as a resource.

image

Of course, if I had unlimited resources I would probably choose a cruise for my favorite family reunion location, but since that isn’t an option, you’ll find my family campin’ out at good ole campsite C and lovin’ every minute of it!

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location- where is it at and why do you go there?  It may feel like you’re giving up your favorite fishin’ hole but please share- what works for your family?

Aunt MO

Helpful Hints for Building Your Family Tree

image

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.

DSC_0280

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.

DSC01567

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.

 

29166091_165

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?

100_3197z

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.

image

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.

Catherine 1 001

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.

image

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.

Unusual Family Reunion Souvenirs

keychain 002

An Alternative to the Family Reunion T Shirt

Don’t get me wrong- I love family reunion t-shirts but when we planned our “Survivor “ family reunion I wanted to find an unusual reunion souvenir for family members to take home with them as a remembrance of our fun reunion.  We had done t-shirts for years and years and I was looking for something that would be different.

Then I remembered that one of my students, Lizzy, had given all my music students that sang at the Olympics a wooden Utah pin.  I was so impressed with the detail of the pins that I asked her about them and was surprised to find that her family had a business that made cool laser products.

image

CountryLazer Cutting and Engraving

The name of Lizzy’s families’ business is CountryLazer and they are Utah’s leading supplier of custom laser cutting & engraving wood, acrylic, glass, mat, leather, and other products.  They have been creating customized gifts and laser engraved products for over 30 years.

CountryLazer would be happy to help you with your family reunion design.  They try to keep pricing around 1- 2 dollars- less expensive then the traditional t-shirt. 

image

I love their cute pioneer wagon kit that could be assembled at  your heritage reunion and would serve as a reunion  craft and memento.

image

CountryLazer has a wide variety of designs for name tags, hat pins, wooden boxes, toys, awards, plaques, picture frames, scouting memorabilia, and Christmas gifts.

image

Design Your Own Family Reunion Souvenir

They will also work with you to create a completely unique product that shows your individual style or your company’s commitment to excellence. They can engrave your logo, graphic, or custom message on almost any material to make your product look more personal and professional.

image

So if you’re looking for a new way to remember your family reunion check out countrylazer.com.

Aunt MO

We do not remember days; we remember moments.  ~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand

$5.00 off any Family Reunion Theme Package

Labor Day seems to mark end of summer and the family reunion season.  You may be planning some fun family Halloween and Christmas parties but If you’re like me, as soon as one family reunion ends I immediately start thinking of ideas for the next years reunion.  

DSC_0447

To help jumpstart your family reunion planning www.familyreunionhelper.com is offering $5.00 off any of our reunion themes until October 31st.  (This includes only $19.99 theme packages)

DSC_1056

First step is to select the family reunion theme that best fits your family.  Each reunion theme comes with free downloadable games, activities, recipes, printables and templates to simplify, inspire and  guide your reunion planning.

IMG_0141

You will need to  login or enter your credit card information before you can enter coupon code reunion2011 and receive $5.00 off your reunion package- but hurry, this coupon code expires October 31st at midnight!

camp 2011 095

Happy Reunion Planning!