How well do “Ewe” know your ancestors?

A game for getting to know your ancestors!

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I’m always looking for fun ways to help family members learn about and make a connection with their ancestors.  We’ve played “Wheel of Ancestors” and “Ancestor Jeopardy” with large groups of our family members and I think most of our family are pretty familiar with many of our family “stories”.

Recently I decided to create a game for smaller groups.  This game is a fun way to really learn interesting facts about your ancestors and to  test the knowledge of those playing the game.  I call it the “Black Sheep Game”.

Black sheep printable

Black Sheep Game Instructions

How well do “Ewe” know your ancestors?

Print, cut and laminate several copies of the “Black Sheep” cards. You can make as many copies as you want. You can also glue a colored paper to the back of the game cards before laminating to make it more difficult to tell which cards have the “black sheep” on them.

Write ancestors or family names on each sheep card using the lines one each card. It is fun to also include family members that are well known such as Grandpa and Grandma, aunts and uncles etc. If available, you may even want to put a small picture of the ancestor on the card.


To Play:

· Turn the cards upside down in the center of the table.

· Draw a card

White Sheep Card


· If there is a white sheep on the card read the name and tell something you know about that ancestor. If you are correct you may keep the sheep card.

Shepherd Card

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· If a “shepherd” card is drawn you can “take a white sheep” card from any of the players but you must read the name on the card and say something you know about them.

Black Sheep Cards


If a “black sheep” card is drawn you lose all of your cards, they go back into the card pile.

· NOTE: Players may repeat information already used in the game.

· This game can go on forever, just end when your time is up. Count how many sheep cards each player has at the end of the time and give a prize to the player with the most cards.

Family Reunion Tug Of War

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New and improved is not better than tried and true!

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It seems like I spend a lot of time trying to dream up and create new family reunion games and activities to excite and entertain family members.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen back on the old “tried and  true” activities and in the end they become the new favorites of our family.

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For instance, this year we’ve done tug of war at several reunions and parties and our families have LOVED it!  We did several categories- family vs. family, girl cousins vs. boy cousins, the original “big 6” (my husband’s  brothers and  sisters), great grand girls vs. boys and so on.

The most difficult part of a tug a war is finding a rope.  We borrowed a rope from our neighbors who  are ranchers.  When looking for a  tug of war rope I look for a rope that is 75- 100 long, a thick  sturdy rope (1” in. 1.5 in diameter) and 100 percent cotton.  This rope is available from the family reunion helper store.

The rope pictured above is soft on your hands to manila ropes. These 100% cotton ropes reduce rope burn and splinters.  Professional tug of war competitions like to use manila ropes but for a family reunion I suggest cotton ropes. Ropes like this one can cost between $150.00- $200.00 but I think you’ll find it’s an activity that can be used every year and adapted to every theme.

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Preparing the tug of war rope

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Find the center of your rope and mark with a piece of colorful tape or a bandana. Make a center mark on the ground for your starting point. You can make your marks with logs, ropes or create obstacles such as water or a mud puddle.

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Make two more marks on the ground  (I suggest 13 feet) equal distance from the center line.

The teams start with the rope’s center line directly above the line marked on the ground.  We like to  start with the rope on the ground and have the official/judge tell the participants to “pick up the  rope” before the contest begins.  When the official gives the order to “pull” teams begin pulling in an attempt to pull  the other team across the center line or obstacle.

Tug of War Hints

Never make a loop by wrapping the rope around the hand to get a better grip.

Don’t tie the rope around the last persons waist.

On your family reunion invitation add “gloves” on their list  of things to  bring.

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Did you know that tug of war was part of the Olympic Games from 1900 until 1920.

Genealogy Icebreaker Activities for Your Family Reunion

Icebreaker Activities

Family Tree Photo

Make a live family tree and take a photo. Arrange family members as they would be on a genealogical chart of the family.  Begin  with Grandma and Grandpa.  Add a branch consisting of their children and spouses.  Add additional branches for each of their children and so on. Be sure and take a picture- preferably from an elevated position.

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Birthday Game


Mix family members up and divide into groups or ten or so. Challenge family members to put themselves in order of their birth date (day, month and year). If you have mostly young children the challenge should be to get in a line, oldest to youngest.  To make the  challenge more difficult try doing it blindfolded and tell them “No Talking!”  It’s amazing how resourceful they will be communicating in other ways.

To involve your entire family ask those that were born in January to get together in one group; do the same for each of the other months. Then have the members of the January group give their birthdates, such as January 21, January 9, etc. and  line up  accordingly. This is fun activity that forges an immediate bond between those that share the same birthday or even birthday month.  This activity is especially effective with reunions of 100  or more participants.

Family Reunion Concentration Game

This activity takes some  advance planning.  Create a "memory" or "concentration" game. You will need 54 cards with 26 pairs of pictures on them.  With so many digital options this is a fairly easy but still a time consuming idea.  Make two copies of each photo- be sure and include name, birthdate and birthplace of each person.  You can make a game using ancestors or using photos of family members that are attending the current reunion.  With this game you will reconnect with the past or make connections with the present.

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Family Tree Chart

Make a huge family tree on and display it during the reunion. You can have large 36” x 48” “engineering prints” made at Staples for under $10.00 that work perfectly for this kind of presentation. Be sure and make 8 1/2 x 11 copies of the tree for each family to take home.  The chart pictured above is another option.  It is available from My History and is a fill in the blank type chart.

Name Tags for Your Family Reunion

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Be creative  with  your reunion name tags.  When family members check in at your reunion site give them each a name tag.  But instead of the same old  “my name  is” name tags be a little creative.  Put different design on name tags so that everyone with design sits at the same table for meals and are on the same team when dividing for activities.  This helps family members get acquainted or Reacquainted with family members they don’t see often. The tags above are from the family reunion helper Heritage Reunion.

Five Things I Will Never Do Again at a Family Reunion

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1.  I will never make a fish print t shirt. 

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Fish  print t shirts- it seemed like a great idea- and it fit our theme perfectly but in the end it was an epic fail.   To make the shirts you generously paint one side of the  fish with fabric paint. Then you place the T-shirt front side down on the painted fish and pat in place.

When you lift the t shirt  off the fish you have the imprint of the fish, scales and all, on the shirt. 

I’ve seen cute shirts done this way but the only fish we could  find were HUGE catfish- in most cases bigger than the shirt.  Everyone worked hard to make the shirts successful but when only half of the fish fits on your shirt it’s kind of disappointing. This activity goes down as the worst one I’ve ever planned.

Never again will  I plan an activity or craft without trying it out on my immediate family before using it at a family reunion.

2. I will never let a scientist be in charge  of making gravy


At a huge family dinner I was in charge of I gave the  responsibility for making the gravy to a scientist who had all the correct formulas for making gravy but couldn’t seem to get it to thicken up.  It looked like brown water.  I had 300 people sitting at tables waiting to be served and no gravy for their potatoes.  Panic mode! 

I finally enlisted the help of a school lunch cook who swooped in  and easily thickened the gravy.  It was kind of a touchy situation- I didn’t want to offend the  scientist but I really needed to get that gravy thickened so I had to turn to the REAL expert.

This “never” item  isn’t about gravy it’s more about assigning people responsibilities that they can be successful  at completing.  I learned to make sure I matched the right people with the right assignment!

3. I  will never hold a reunion without having a plan for bad weather.

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Look at this picture- these are not happy times. A rainy family reunion  is not a happy family reunion. 

We’ve been  holding the Stewart family reunion for 30 years and have only had bad weather two times.  So what am  I complaining about- that’s a pretty good record.  It’s great, unless it’s one of the times it rained for three days. 

Rain and other bad weather can really put a damper on your  family reunion.  Our family were really great sports when it came to this family reunion in 2012 but a break from the rain would’ve been nice.  Now when  I  schedule our reunion I also reserve a nearby church’s cultural hall where we can do activities, eat a meal and get out of the weather for awhile if needed.  We also come prepared with large tarps and portable heaters- just in case. 

Of course, if you hold your reunion at a hotel this won’t be as much of an issue- unless, you plan on attending a theme park or other outdoor activities.  Talk to hotel officials in advance about the use of large conference halls for a bad weather day.

4. I  will never reserve a reunion site without shade.


Several years ago, we had a difficult time finding a location for our family reunion.  Someone beat us to the punch and we  lost out on our normal reunion site.  (That hasn’t happened since.) In desperation we reserved a campsite at a hot springs thinking that swimming would be great fun  for everyone- it was.  However; there was no shade whatsoever and it was HOT!  We put up some tarps to give us some relief but the sun beat down on us relentlessly.  Everyone was exhausted from swimming in the hot springs pools and then baking in the hot sun. 

Since that reunion I have made it a policy to check out our family reunion sites personally.  A couple of things I look for in a suitable site are:  proximity  to the bathrooms
        suitable sites for tents  and trailers
        Enough parking (most campsites restrict the number of cars) 
        cooking facilities & eating arrangements
        open space for games and activities
        and SHADE!

5.  I will never contribute to a boring reunion.

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This is a picture of the really awesome obstacle course we put together for a family reunion.  Where’s Waldo?  You won’t  find Waldo or any other human in this picture because nobody wanted to do anything- BORING!

I was asked to plan activities for a large family.  My family worked hard at hauling bales of hay, ladders and other props for a dynamite obstacle  course.  We  also organized Frisbee golf and volleyball tournaments- BUT… nobody wanted to participate.  Their reunion consisted of eating, visiting (which  is important) and holding  an auction.  The most frustrating part of the reunion for me was when we finally got enough people together to play volleyball and the reunion  organizers shut us down so they could start the auction.  UGH!

When  I attend a family reunion I want to get to  know family members better- I want to  play with  them, laugh with  them and get a little crazy with them, but if that’s not what’s  important at your reunion  don’t ask  someone  to plan activities. 

I learned from this experience that I had better know who my “audience” is and plan activities (or no activities) depending on their  family makeup and interests.

How to Pay For Your Family Reunion

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We’re blaming it on the economy but whatever the reason, our family reunion fund raising auction last year was not as productive as in years past so we are faced with some new money 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.


To find a solution to our money concerns, I  talked to everyone I knew and did a lot of research on the internet and these are the ways I found that you are paying for your family reunions:


Hold a Family Auction

A family auction is a pretty typical way that families pay for their reunions. We’ve been holding reunion auctions for about 15 years now. 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.

Divide Up the Costs

Divide all expenses equally (save receipts), or have everyone pay individually for expenses as they incur.


Family Recipe Book

Collecting recipes and producing cookbooks and many other publishing projects such as directories, scrapbooks, and history books to sell at the reunion.  Many will purchase family recipe books to give as gifts to neighbors and friends during the holidays.

Pass The Hat

Pass the hat- let family members donate what they can to your reunion fund.

Fund Raising Sale

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.

Reunion Yard Sale

Family yard sale- hold a yard sale either individually or collectively, perhaps as part of your reunion.  Money raised goes in the family fund.

Personalized Family Products

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

Charge a Reunion Registration Fee

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.

Provide A Services Alternative

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.

Cut Back on Reunion Time

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.

Family Reunion Dues

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.


Reunion Raffle

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.


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.

Reunion Gifts

We are fortunate that we are able to go camping for our Stewart reunions and on the Wells’ side of the family we stay at the family condo. Location can be a huge expense but even that can be taken care of creatively.  My parents rent condos or motel rooms for family members instead of buying Christmas gifts- they’re giving the gift of family.

Giant Activities for Your Family Reunion

Miscellaneous” Activities for Your Family Reunion

I considered calling this post ”Miscellaneous” activities for your family reunion because they aren’t theme driven but have proven to be great time fillers for small groups of people during our family reunions.

Giant Checkers Rug

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I have had this giant Checkers Rug for more than 20 years.  We set it out at every family reunion and you will always find two people playing Checkers no matter what time of day it is, usually with a small crowd gathered around cheering for the underdog to win.

Giant Coloring Pages

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Giant coloring pages are always a huge hit at our  family reunions. Of course, there isn’t room for a lot of people to sit around coloring, but it’s a great activities for someone looking for a little down  time.  Coloring pages come in different themes that would go along with your reunion theme- jungle, circus, Medieval etc.  Some pages come with markers for coloring but you’ll need to bring extra.  When your page is complete, roll it up carefully and then enter in your county fair or have it framed for Grandma.

The giant Checker rug and giant coloring pages are both available at the family reunion helper  store  for under twenty dollars.

Remote Control Car Racing for Your Family Reunion

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We attended a party sponsored by my husbands company this summer and when we walked into the huge warehouse all the boys faces, young and old, lit up with excitement at what they saw.  A simple remote control race track had been set up in the warehouse and party goers were able to organize their own races against family and friends.  What a great party idea and what a fun idea for a family reunion!  Here’s how it works-


The Cars

If your reunion committee has the funds, purchase a few cars and at the end of your reunion auction them off  or have a prize drawing.  Another option is to invite family members to bring their own remote control cars to the reunion. If you’re planning in advance, a good time to purchase remote control cars in during the Thanksgiving Black Friday sales.

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The RC Track

First you have to decide if you want a dirt track or an inside track. As far as size goes, you won’t need more than a 20-foot by 20-foot area. You can chart out the obvious oval course or focus on hard turns to make it more challenging. If you are racing on a hard surface, you can easily chart out the borders of the track using chalk or tape. Use 2x4s to make a sturdy track. A garden hose may also be a solution to keep the RC cars on the track. Depending on how many cars and racers you have the track should be within 5 to 7 feet wide.


A barrier in the center of your track helps keep cars roaring around the track and may help keep younger racers from getting stuck in the center.  It can also be used as a control central for racers.

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RC Jumps and Obstacles

Now it’s time to have some fun adding obstacles and jumps. If your car is a cheaper model, add only slight jumps but medium cost remote control cars can fly right over jumps without being damaged. You can use 2 liter bottles that you spray paint bright orange as obstacles. Put a little sand in each bottle and use them for obstacles to weave in and out  off.  (You can use orange cones but the smaller ones get pushed out of place.) Another fun obstacle for your track is a tunnel made from plastic or metal that a remote control car can fit through.  If you are creating a dirt track the pipe can also double as the base for a jump if dirt is piled around it.  You will have to experiment to get the dirt at the right angle.  Tunnels can also be made out of cardboard boxes.

Race Day!

Have your track set up when reunion goers arrive.  Invite them to practice racing cars around the track then choose a few cars to race for prizes at the end of the day. Gift bags of “Hot Wheel” and “Cars” goodies are fun awards.

Race Day Party

  • You can find race day printable invitations, decoration ideas,printable Pit Passes, water bottle (fuel) labels and award certificates in the familyreunionhelper store at Race Day Party.
  • Whether for a family reunion or birthday party it’s a great party theme with plenty of ZOOM!

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Brain Games For Your Family Reunion

Planning Activities For Everyone

I always plan lots of physical activities for our family reunions- there’s no sitting around when  I  plan a reunion.  However; not  everyone is able to join in on a game of “Whiffle Ball” or run an obstacle course so I like to plan some “brain games” for them. 

You  can incorporate brain games into every reunion theme- Boot Camp, All Sport and Olympic themes are perfect themes for brain games.   If you are giving awards for your activities be sure to include awards for your “brain  games”.

Listed below is a one of my favorite brain games –

Brain Game


1. How many outs are in an inning of baseball? (6)

2. We celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July in the United States. Is there a 4th of July in England. (Yes, there is a 4th of July everywhere.)

3. Some months have 31 days, some have 30, how many have 28? (They all do)

4. You have become lost in the woods at night. It is winter and getting very cold. Spotting an abandoned cabin, you go inside. By the moonlight you see an oil lamp, an oil heater and some kindling wood in a fireplace. But you discover you only have one match. What do you light first? (the match)

5. Your doctor gives you three pills and tells you to take one every half hour. How long do they last? (One hour. Example: 12:00, 12:30, 1:00)

6. In the state of Mississippi, is it legal for a man to marry his widow’s sister? (He can’t; he’s dead)

7. Take two apples from three apples. How many do you get? (Two, you took two)

8. You’re a school bus driver. At the first stop in the morning, you pick up an eight year old and a six year old. At the second stop you pick up a third grader and two fourth graders. At the third stop you pick up the Gibson twins who are 11 and one five year old. At the fourth stop you pick up one 12 year old and three children who are seven. How old is the bus driver? (Your age, you are the school bus driver.)

9. Divide 30 by ½ and add 10. What do you get? (70)

10. How many animals did Moses take onto the ark? (None, Moses wasn’t on the ark, Noah was)

11. You build a house with four southern exposures. A bear walks by your living room window. What color is the bear? (white, it is a Polar Bear. You are at the north pole.)

12. You have two coins that total 55 cents. One of them is not a nickel. What are they? (Half dollar and a nickel)

13. Billy’s mom has three kids. One is Penny and one is Nickel. What is the name of her third kid? (Billy)

Family Reunion T Shirt


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.