When You Were My Age Giveaway

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We’re so excited about our new and updated version of “When You Were My Age Party” that we’re giving away a free copy to one of our subscribers.  Just tell us what celebration you might  use this party  for in the comments section of this blog and we will randomly select one person to receive a free copy on December 1st, 2013.

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Our new version of “When You Were My Age” includes a fill in the blank invitation and gives you 37 pages of information for the years 1921- 2010.

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This is such a fun program, fashioned after a Bill Cosby Show episode and was called, "When Mom Was my Age." We have done variations of the program for 70th and 80th birthdays and 50th wedding anniversaries. Each time we do "When You Were My Age" everyone is thrilled and excited to be a part of the celebration. Everyone has a part on the program and an opportunity to highlight world events and significant family happenings throughout the life of your loved one.

This is a great way to honor your Grandma or Grandpa on their special birthday or your Dad or Mom on their 50th anniversary. Celebrating a landmark birthday or anniversary is always going to be a lot of work but with this package you’ll be well on your way to saying "We love you" in a very special way.

When You Were My Age

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.

Music For Your Family Reunion Slide Show or Video

Creating a family slide show or video is fun and with all the tools available surprisingly easy.  Whether you’re reunion is being held at a resort or at a casual retreat, there’s no better way to take a stroll down memory lane than with a reunion slideshow or video presentation. 

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We’ve been making and showing slide shows at our family reunions for years now and have witnessed for ourselves the evolution of the slide show from the old photo slides and projectors to power point and movie maker presentations projected on wall sized screens.

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When making your slide show don’t make it too long-15 minutes is about right and you stretch it to 20 minutes if you keep your background music upbeat and catchy.

Be sure y0u include at least one photo of every member of your family.  Review the photos you plan on using to be sure you aren’t featuring one dominant person in your presentation.

Background Music is Important

Through the years we have come to realize the importance of the music used as background music behind the photo presentation. Music has the powerful ability to set the tone of your slide show and evoke strong feelings of good family memories.

When making a  family reunion slideshow or video you have to be able to put aside your own music preferences and select music that Grandma will enjoy (and can understand the lyrics) and music your teenagers will be able to bear.  I prefer upbeat music for most of my slideshows with one slow, sentimental song to really cement the memories.

Family Reunion Slide Show Music

When I thought about writing this blog I wondered what I could do to help a slide show makers job a little easier.  I decided that perhaps a list of good slide show background music might be helpful.  So listed below are some of the good old music “standards” we have used in our family slide shows throughout the years.  Just click on the song picture to download it for your presentation.

A good opening song might be “These Are My People” from Rodney Atkins.

“This is where I come from
Were givin’ this life everything we got and then some
It ain’t always pretty
But its real
It’s the way we were made
Wouldn’t have it any other way
These are my people”

“Firework” has a great message about how we are all important and can light a the world light a firework.  But it also has a catchy, upbeat tempo and your family will probably sing along with it.

If you want to feature Grandma and Grandpa in your slide show consider using Josh Grobin’s “You Raise Me Up” as tribute to these great people in your lives.

There was a time when I was making a lot of slide shows and “We Go Together” from the movie Grease seemed to be a great song for the end of the slide show.  It is upbeat and gets across the message that we’re family and “We Go Together”.

My family loves swimming and watersports so our family slide shows always include a lot of “water” pictures.  More often than not I look to the “Beach Boys” for good background music for these kinds of pictures.

“Let Them Be Little” by Billy Dean or Lonestar is a great song for showing baby pictures or pictures of the “early” years.  With the right pictures this song will bring tears to the Moms and Dads in your family.  Of course there is also “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers and “Sunrise Sunset”  though I think these last two songs have been over used.

It’s pretty hard to beat Rascal Flatts “My Wish” for sending out a powerful message to your family.  Be careful to not use pictures that will make people laugh when they see it- you don’t want their laughter to cover up the beautiful lyrics of this song.

“But more than anything, more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.”

“Voices” by country artist Chris Young, is about all the things we hear from our family and how we hear their “voices” as we go throughout our lives.  Be sure to check out his music video of the song for some great family reunion video ideas. http://www.cmt.com/videos/chris-young/538509/voices.jhtml

You could say I’m a little bit crazy
You could call me insane
Walkin’ ’round with all these whispers
Runnin’ ’round here in my brain
I just can’t help but hear ‘em
Man, I can’t avoid it

I hear voices
I hear voices like
My dad sayin’ quit the team
And you’ll be a quitter for the rest of your life
Mama tellin’ me to say a prayer
Every time I lay down at night
And grandma sayin’ if you find the one
You’d better treat her right
Yeah, I hear voices all the time

 

If you have lost someone dear in your family during the year since your last family reunion you my want to include a segment of pictures of them in your slideshow using Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” as background.

For more current music substitute “My Way” for Brad Paisley’s “When I Get Where I’m Going”.

“Yeah when I get where I’m going
There’ll be only happy tears
I will shed the sins and struggles
I have carried all these years
And I’ll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear
Yeah when I get where I’m going
Don’t cry for me down here”

And if all else fails and you just can’t come up with a song you can always use “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge.  It may have been overused but you just can’t beat it’s catchy beat and meaningful lyrics.

“All of the people around us they say
Can they be that close
Just let me state for the record
We’re giving love in a family dose”

Use  a Projector for a Life Sized Slide Show

When I started doing family reunion presentations to civic and church groups it became necessary for me to get a projector that would project large images on the wall. My projector isn’t fancy with a lot of bells and whistles but so far it’s been just perfect for what I need it for.  A projector like mine may be just the thing to show your side show on for your family reunion. 

If you’re going to make a slideshow for your reunion, make sure you budget enough time to put together a good production. Don’t underestimate your show’s ability to influence people’s overall impression of your family. Sharing and reliving memories is a powerful thing!

Aunt MO

Taking Family Reunion Photos

Family reunions are a great time to take a family photo. We have very few family group photos that look perfect- maybe we don’t even have one perfect picture. It’s so hard to get everyone looking in the same direction, smiling and not squinting. It seems that if you get the children looking at the camera their parents are looking at the children but no matter how difficult a family reunion photo may be to take, you’ve just got to do it- old family photographs are a treasured part of any family history and it won’t be long until the pictures you take today become a cherished part of your family memories.

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Becoming our Family Reunion Photographer

You can always hire a professional photographer but unfortunately for us, most photographers don’t like to travel to the locations we have our reunions and so we are left with “Do-it-yourself” family reunion pictures. Here’s some things we’ve learned over the years.

Take Photos at the Beginning of Your Reunion

Take pictures earlier in the day and at the first of your reunion.  Children haven’t gotten dirty, or sunburned and no one has spilled their food or drink.  If you’re camping, take pictures the first day before everyone’s hair has gone flat and make up has worn off.

Get the Light Right

The middle of the day is a difficult time for pictures- The light is harsh and unflattering. Because it’s coming from overhead you will get a lot of light on top of people’s heads, but their faces are not going to be lit. For shady locations it won’t matter as much, but for photos out in the open, before 10 AM or after 2 PM is better, if that fits in your reunion schedule.

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Choose a Spot Free of Distractions

A tall row of shrubbery or a colored wall makes ideal backdrops. People say, “I’ll just photo shop that.” But think of the time and headache you’ll save if you just “clean it up” before you take the photo.

Try Something New

Try taking your shot from atop a ladder, bench or table. If you shoot from an elevated position, it’s easier to get everyone’s face, even if people are standing behind one another.

Small Family Groups

Various small groupings of family members can be very nice to have for the future.  You can consider having an all girls picture, all boys picture, and an all children picture etc.  Try making your pictures “action” shots- besides making interesting  pictures they’re a lot more fun to shoot.

Family Reunion Pictures 212

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Grandma will want to have a picture of her and Grandpa with all the grandkids for their Christmas photo card.

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Family Photo Boards and Frames

A fun, new photo trend is photo boards. Cut holes in a piece of plywood to accommodate old frames and let family members pose in family groupings. The effect is that of family photos hanging on a wall. You may want to put wallpaper on your plywood “wall” or paint stripes or dots and hang decorations to give it a more “homey” look.

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Putting hands or props outside the frames give a fun 3D effect.

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Hand held frames can also be fun remembrances of your reunion. Have a variety of frames available and let family members organize their own family groupings.

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Set aside some time for photos of family members in their reunion theme costumes. It’s usually easier to take smaller family groupings and helps with identifying family members.

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My Favorite Family Reunion Photo Tip

is to use paper plates to help in identifying family members. Give everyone a paper plate with a number on it. Take a “paper plate” picture then remove the plates and take another picture. After printing the two pictures you can list family names using the numbers on the paper plates- #1- Jane Moyer, #2 Clint Holmes etc. Hint: Don’t let anyone move after you’ve taken the first photo with the paper plates.

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Use  Digital Camera

And finally, use a digital camera! You may delete more images than you keep but going digital allows you to snap as many pictures as you want and then do simple editing later and print only the best photos for keepsakes.

When it’s all said and done, the only thing you have left of your family reunion are the memories you’ve made and the pictures you’ve taken so- “Say Cheese”!

Aunt MO

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

Make a Family Time Capsule

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A time capsule is a collection of objects put together to preserve the memory of a place, experience, or group of people at one point in time. People often make time capsules for special public occasions, and for others to open many years in the future. You can make a family time capsule at your next family reunion or special event.

The first choice for your family time capsule is the container. It should keep out air and liquid, and be strong enough to protect the contents if it’s dropped. A large gourmet popcorn tin works quite well but if you plan on storing your container for a long period of time or want it to be more official looking you may wish to purchase a container from a company that specializes in time capsules- http://www.futurepkg.com/products/tc_personal.html These time capsules can cost as much as $200.00 but they are very impressive looking and can be engraved with the date assembled and the date to be opened.

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We put our families’ time capsule in a new, empty paint can. Paint cans have great lids that will help keep moisture out. If you are concerned about the seal on your can, try turning the container upside down and very carefully dripping wax from a candle around the edge of the lid where it meets the container, to seal it completely.

Determine how long you want to put your time capsule away. Is it something you want to look at in 5 years? 10? 20? Will you take it out for a special occasion, such as an anniversary or maybe Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary? Or do you want to hide it away for 50 years for the next generation to find? On the outside of the time capsule print clearly the date it should be opened.

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Write a time capsule log for your initial ceremony. This should be a record of who is involved, their names and ages, and what life is like at that time. This should be included inside the time capsule.

The first thing to put into your time capsule is a current newspaper. Then add personal items such as family photos, recipes, and small memorable from your family reunion or party. Be sure to list specifics such as names and where photos were taken. Include letters to your future self and bits of family news that otherwise might be forgotten. It’s fun to make predictions of what life will be like for you and your family in the future. If you’re putting in paper, make sure that it’s acid-free. Leave out any substance that could decay and damage the other contents of the box. This includes rubber, wool, wood, PVC, and any perishable or edible item.

Decide where to put your time capsule. We buried our time capsule in Grandma and Grandpa’s backyard. If you don’t have a metal container you may want to store on the top shelf of your closet or in an attic. Keep in mind that you may move before the appointed time, so think about putting it where you can easily find it. Keep a careful record of where your time capsule is stored- don’t assume you will remember all the details.

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Did you know that you can register your time capsule?   The International Time Capsule Society was established in 1990 in Atlanta, Georgia, and allows people world wide to register their capsule in a formal registry and database. The site asks you to fill out your contact information, the contents or purpose of your time capsule, and when you would like it opened. You can register at Oglethorpe University.

Keep in mind that creating a capsule for unveiling at some future date is really a two sided adventure involving both you and those who will uncover it once again. Make sure that the items you select will add to the element of surprise and discovery for those who open this capsule of your family history. Imagine what a treasure a time capsule would have been from your ancestors and make your time capsule a thing of wonder and learning for those who will open yours.

Aunt MO

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose

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.

http://www.lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollection=2&searchseqstart=94&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=94&searchsubseqend=ZZZ

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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