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.

Unusual Family Reunion Souvenirs

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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.

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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. 

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

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

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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.

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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.  

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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)

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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.

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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!

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Happy Reunion Planning!

Make a Family Reunion Box

 

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I have a family reunion box.  I started the box because I got tired of  getting to the family reunion and finding out that I had forgotten to bring things like tape or scissors. 

It seems like my friends and family with trailers have everything stashed behind their trailer doors but I don’t have a trailer- I have a family reunion “box”.

Here’s what I’ve stashed inside my family reunion box: Gloves, rain ponchos,  first aid, tarp, all sizes of rope and string, plastic table cloths, collapsible shovel, plastic ware, serving spoons, can opener and rags.

I always keep things like balls of every size (including wiffle and volleyballs), horseshoes, marshmallow blow sticks, Frisbees, blindfolds, dice, huge checkers set, crayons and coloring books just in case we need some extra fun at our reunion.

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Inside the family reunion box I have a smaller box with lots of compartments where I keep things like tape, scissors, pens and pencils, markers, over the counter pain medicine, reflector tape, bug spray, sun screen, wet wipes, crayons, thumb tacks, toothpaste, new toothbrush, string, nails, extra lantern supplies, matches and batteries.

I usually have what we need at our family reunion in my box- except for this year- someone needed a stapler.  I didn’t have a stapler in my box this year but you can bet I will next year!

How do I generate funds to pay for family reunion expenses?

From Hope T., Location Oakland, TN. U.S.A

That’s a very good question, Hope.  It’s bad enough that family reunions take so much time but they can be expensive too.

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In 2010 our Stewart,  3 day reunion cost $16.00 a person which is a screaming good deal for those that attend.  We don’t charge for family reunion so the money has to come from somewhere and doing the math, I figure that we are going to need about $1,500 to pay for reunion expenses.

On both sides of our family, Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Gramps have paid for the reunion location and accommodations which has really been a blessing. They pay for the campsite, the park or the condominium for the reunion but that still leaves the food (big expense) decorations, crafts, activities and prizes.

On the Wells side of our family we "divide and conquer". We rotate through all the original children (myself and my three brothers) the responsibility for the reunion and that family makes the assignments. They assign out meals and if you are responsible for breakfast then you provide the food, prepare it and clean up. Another family will be responsible for lunch and another dinner etc. This works out quite well as each family can choose for themselves how much work and expense they choose to take on. Assignments for other activities can also be made.

On the Stewart side of our family, Aunt Peggy Sue suggested that we hold a family auction. I have to admit, I wasn’t very excited about a family reunion auction. I just couldn’t get the vision for how an auction would work. Well, work it did. Our reunion auctions have paid for all the food, activities, prizes and crafts for the Stewart family reunion and we’ve been holding auctions for almost ten years.

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Everyone brings something to donate to the auction. Some family members work all year to make a quilt or other special item for the reunion, some offer services such as haircuts and some bake cookies, brownies or bring produce from their garden The best sellers at our reunion are always the crocheted dishtowels Grandma makes ($40.00- $80.00) and the hand-stitched heirloom quilts that Grandpa makes ($200.00- $400.00). Other popular items are restored and framed photos of ancestors and photo memory books- anything with sentimental value. No one counts the items someone brings or judges them on how much they bid, everyone does the best they can, sometimes more, sometimes less.

I have the great pleasure of going around and talking to people about family reunions and many have shared their ideas for paying for their reunion. 

Some families divide all expenses equally, or have everyone pay individually for expenses as they incur.

Collecting recipes and producing cookbooks and many other publishing projects such as directories, scrapbooks, and history books to sell at the reunion.

Pass the hat

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Food, beverage and white elephant sales. Food sales can net a nice profit if you consider carefully your reunion customers. A bake sale could feature desserts to eat right there as well as whole bakery specialties to take home.

Family yard sale

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Order personalized  (imprinted) products such as t-shirts, caps, coffee mugs, pens, pencils…and many more items to sell

Charge a traditional registration fee to families. Some families charge per family unit and others charge different prices based on age and family size. Average cost families are charging for their reunions are adults (ages 13 and over)- $70.00, children- $40.00. Pay electronically or elect to pay with a bank check or money order.

If some families can’t afford to pay then give them opportunities to provide service in exchange for paying fees- for instance could type in recipes for a family cookbook, maintain a family website or do family history research.

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The easiest way to reduce reunion expenses is to cut back on the time your reunion lasts. If you normally have a three day reunion cut back to two or just get together for a Saturday afternoon and evening. Make your meals potluck and enjoy the time, however short, that you have with each other.

With finances in mind, some families opt not to have reunions every year.

Ask for reunion dues and ask family members to send a portion of their dues on a quarterly basis so that it isn’t a one-time large payment.

A lot of people at my family reunion presentations hold a raffle of donated items from companies or family members during the reunion. Plane tickets or electronics are good money generating items. 

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Collect corporate donations or pledges for a fundraising event like a bike or 5K race. Corporations sometimes donate to large reunions where knowledge of the company’s name and contribution reaches many people.

Family reunion pocket change. Ask family members to save their pocket change during the year and bring it to the reunion. Count money by hand or take to a counting machine. Announce the grand total at your reunion.

Families all over the world are having family reunions and there are hundreds of ways to pay for them.  The most important thing is to choose the idea that you think will work best for your family and move forward.  As the years go by you can tweek your plan until it’s perfected.  Paying for a family reunion is a little like getting married- if you wait until you can afford it you’ll never do it. So make a plan, Hope, and do it! Thanks for asking the question and good luck!

Aunt MO

Do I Have to Invite Everyone To My Family Reunion?

I received a question from someone planning a family reunion in August this year. This reunion planner expressed some concern over who they should invite to their reunion. There was one family in particular that she didn’t feel comfortable inviting to the reunion for various reasons.

imageIf this is your first family reunion then deciding who to invite to the reunion is one of the first questions you have to ask when planning your reunion. There are all types of reunions. You can plan reunion with just your brothers and sisters and their families for a reunion on a smaller scale. Every generation you go back makes your reunion bigger and the more people and food you need to plan for.

If you are concerned about including a family in your reunion you may want to stop short of inviting families from that generation. There are plenty of reunions or “parties” you could have that won’t include that family. For instance have a “Cousins” party or a “descendants of _____” reunion. If you are inviting the descendants of _____ and they are part of that group it is difficult to not include them, but you can invite anyone you want to a party.

image Edith Wagner of Reunions Magazine puts it this way, “A family reunion is not a wedding where you pick and choose who to invite. A family reunion should include everyone or at least you should invite everyone. Occasionally there may be family members you’d rather not encounter. On the other hand, not everyone wants to come, either, which is how it often works out.”

A good rule of thumb when deciding who to invite to your family reunion is to start with your closest relatives and work out. Begin with “Mom and Dad”- not much of a family reunion, then invite brothers and sisters and their families. Ask yourself if you have access to a reunion site that will accommodate this number of people and if you do then start adding branches from your family tree- grandparents, great grandparents etc.

Keep in mind that the further back you go the greater the numbers and keep in mind that families tend to multiply. We began with about 20 people at our first family reunion and now we’re pushing 100.

Hint: Large reunions need to be announced very far in advance to give everyone enough time to plan around it and save up. All family reunions require a significant amount of planning but larger reunions require many more hours of planning and lots of help from reunion committees.

So basically the question we should be asking is “What KIND of a reunion do I want to have?”  Those are the people you should invite.

Thanks, Linda, for a great reunion planning question.

Aunt MO

Annual Proclamations and Observances

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I just became aware of three official proclamations pertaining to family reunions and thought it was interesting that there are basically three “official” family reunion month.

Make your family reunion official by issuing an official proclamation. You can ask for a proclamation from your city for many reasons including the date of your family reunion. You could ask that the day of your reunion be declared, “Wells Family Reunion Day” or “Stewart” Family Reunion Day.

Use a proclamation to recognize an ancestor or a special family member. Dignitaries are anxious to grant such requests especially if the family has a long history of service in the community. Some communities will even dedicate a week to your special event, cause or industry.  Reads more about obtaining an official proclamation for your family reunion here.

 Family Reunion Month A Proclamation in 1985 To raise awareness of a growing trend of runaway children and newly formed organizations to help reunite families of runaways the Congress, by House Joint Resolution 64, has designated the period between Mother’s Day, May 12, and Father’s Day, June 16, 1985, as "Family Reunion Month" and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this period.

National Family Reunion Month While some commercial enterprises have dubbed August as National Family Reunion Month many social groups including churches observe National Family Reunion Month in the month of July.

Annual Family Reunion Planning Month A family awareness group with a focus on genealogy and traditional family reunion planning established in 2005 named November as "Annual Family Reunion Planning Month". Mark A. Askew, Founder, Legendary Heritage Heirlooms, "Family Reunion Planning Month." (November, annual monthly family reunion awareness observance)

Our Family Reunion is Going Green

 

image We had our annual family reunion planning meeting and we all agreed- it’s time to “Go Green”! Since this is a new thing for our family reunion we planned to make changes to our reunion by using the  Three R’s of Going Green- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce or prevent waste to reduce greenhouse gases by using less and throwing away less. Instead of using lots of paper and plastic products we are going to use mesh “dunk” bags and each family member at our reunion will wash their own dishes.

To do this, we are assigning each person to bring their own mesh bag, utensils, plate, bowl and cup to our family reunion.  After each meal, we will fill three dishpans with water. In one we will put liquid detergent, bleach in the other and leave the final bin full of clear water. Each family member will then wash their dishes in the detergent water, then the bleach water and finally the clear water.  All wet dishes be put in a mesh bag and then hung on a line outside.

Mesh Dunk bags are available at  http://www.outdoorpros.com/ for under $4.00 or may be available at your local dollar store.

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Reuse products by giving them to other people who want or need them instead of throwing them away.

It seems we are always finding half full water bottles at our family reunion.  This year we are making plans to reuse water bottles.  Family members will write their name on each water bottle and then refill it with water from coolers when it is empty.  We’re hoping that one bottle a day is all that each person will need.

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Recycle items made of materials such as glass, metal, plastic, or paper.

We have always collected empty aluminum cans for recycling at our family reunions but this year we’re planning to add other items to our recycling list.  At our 2011 family reunion we will also include a container for paper and one for plastic.

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I know that there are other ideas we could use to “Go Green” at our family reunion but I feel pretty good about the three changes we are planning on implementing in 2011. 

Aunt MO

"Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground."
- Anonymous

Planning to Pay For Your Family Reunion

Today I will meet with our family reunion committee to plan our 2011 family reunion. Because of the current state of the economy our fund raising auction last year was not as productive as in years past so we are faced with some new challenges this year.  How are we going to pay for our family reunion?  We always joke about plugging our “money tree into the “currant” bush but this year I think we’re going to need some new ideas.

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I can tell you that our 3 day reunion cost $16.00 a person in 2010 and that included everything!  Doing the math, I figure that we are going to need about $1,500 to pay for reunion expenses.

I needed some  new ideas so I  talked to everyone I knew and did a lot of research on the internet and these are the ways I found you are paying for your family reunions:

Divide all expenses equally, or have everyone pay individually for expenses as they incur.

Collecting recipes and producing cookbooks and many other publishing projects such as directories, scrapbooks, and history books to sell at the reunion.

Pass the hat

Food, beverage and white elephant sales. Food sales can net a nice profit if you consider carefully your reunion customers. A bake sale could feature desserts to eat right there as well as whole bakery specialties to take home.

Family yard sale

Order personalized (imprinted) products such as t-shirts, caps, coffee mugs, pens, pencils…and many more items to sell

Charge a traditional registration fee to families. Some families charge per family unit and others charge different prices based on age and family size. Average cost families are charging for their reunions are adults (ages 13 and over)- $70.00, children- $40.00. Pay electronically or elect to pay with a bank check or money order.

If some families can’t afford to pay then give them opportunities to provide service in exchange for paying fees- for instance could type in recipes for a family cookbook, maintain a family website or do family history research.

The easiest way to reduce reunion expenses is to cut back on the time your reunion lasts. If you normally have a three day reunion cut back to two or just get together for a Saturday afternoon and evening. Make your meals potluck and enjoy the time, however short, that you have with each other.

With finances in mind, some families opt not to have reunions every year.

Ask for reunion dues and ask family members to send a portion of their dues on a quarterly basis so that it isn’t a one-time large payment.

Hold a raffle of donated items from companies or family members during the reunion. Plane tickets or electronics are good money generating items.

Collect corporate donations or pledges for a fundraising event like a bike or 5K race. Corporations sometimes donate to large reunions where knowledge of the company’s name and contribution reaches many people.

My favorite idea, and the one  am going to suggest at our planning meeting is:

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Family reunion pocket change. Ask family members to save their pocket change during the year and bring it to the reunion. Count money by hand or take to a counting machine. Announce the grand total at your reunion.

In hopes that our reunion committee will adopt this idea I quickly made some labels using fun fonts from Lettering Delights. http://www.letteringdelights.com/  I hope they’ll like this idea and that along with our annual auction we will be able to fund our Stewart family reunion.

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Keeping in Touch When the Reunion is Over

All good things must come to an end, but saying goodbye at the end of your family reunion doesn’t mean you have to wait until next year’s reunion to visit with your favorite cousin. In today’s high tech world it’s pretty simple to keep in touch through emails, web pages and social networking. Why just this month I learned, through social media, that Cousin Bobbie has a new car, Cousin Lindsey is having dog problems and I don’t dare say who… is expecting another baby.

Take Advantage of Email

clip_image002E-mail is a great way to send a spontaneous note. People love to catch up on the latest family news, and you’ll find that they will reply to your message more often than not!

It’s hard to beat the convenience, and cost savings of sending emails when planning your family reunion. You do have to be sensitive to those that haven’t yet discovered email and be sure they aren’t kept out of the loop.

Online Chat
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A unique way to plan your family reunion and to keep everyone up to date on reunion plans is to invite your relatives (or those who can participate) to join in an online family chat. It’s easy to set up a private chat room on America Online just by going to People Connection and selecting Private Room. Tell everyone the name of your room and when you plan on "talking." Use the chat to plan the event and the details of travel. Roundtable chats are also an excellent way to keep in touch after everyone returns home. Other chat options are Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo Instant Messenger or MSN Live, a Microsoft program. Talk to family members at your next family reunion and find out what chat method will work best for them when planning your family reunion.

Family Newsletter

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A family newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with each other between reunions. A monthly newsletter is great but often difficult to keep up with. A quarterly newsletter can be a better option. Ask family members to email information about family activities and upcoming events such as weddings, baptisms and births. Include information about your upcoming family reunion. A family newsletter is a great family reunion planning tool. To save on postage expenses only mail your newsletters to family members that don’t have email.

Family Webpage

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By creating a website for your family, you can share special events such as birthdays, graduations, family reunions and parties. A family webpage can also be a great place for family reunion planning and to share ideas. For a family webpage to be successful family members have to be committed to participating by checking the site regularly and contributing to conversations.

You might consider using websites such as Carepages, Caringbridge, www.mygreatbigfamily.com or Blogger for your family webpage. They need very little computer knowledge to "operate", yet provide an excellent forum for families communicate and to send out family reunion planning updates.

Technology has changed how we keep in touch. Studies have shown that almost half of the baby boomer generation is on social networking sites, and 31 percent say the first time they saw photos of a new grandchild or family member was through the internet. Two-thirds of boomers, or about 64 percent, E-mail friends and family more frequently than they call them on the phone. The internet helps us be more connected to loved ones and when used appropriately can help with family reunion planning and distributing reunion information.

Aunt MO

“Trees without roots fall over.”