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Family Reunion History Committee

Florida Keys Family Vacation 

Every family likes to know who their ancestors are. Many of them already have a great deal of information and there are those who would love to know more. The Family History Committee can prepare a questionnaire that can go to families with the initial invitation and completed online or returned in the mail.

  • Choose a committee or other family member who is knowledgeable of the family tree to give a presentation of family history highlights. Many families boast an enthusiastic genealogist who would be willing to share the family history.  This is, after all, the reason for the gathering.  It is one of the most memorable activities and all generations will appreciate it.

  • Capture the memories of the event with a professional photographer or videographer or designated family member. If hiring a professional, do so beforehand and include the expense in the budget.

  • Compile a family history from questionnaires completed and returned. To help with the expense of the reunion, guests could order a copy for a charge.

  • A guest book at the door for families to sign and leave comments will let everyone know who has already arrived. A guest book can bring enjoyment and memories well after everyone has gone home.

  • Name tags can alleviate confusion if the group is getting together for the first time or the first time in several years. Name tags can be made ahead of time and picked up by the guest book. There are probably new marriages, babies, and cousins who are not familiar with each other or which family they belong to.

  • A family tree on the wall would catch attention and be a gathering place.

  • Photos can be shared and remembered. One family member may be able to identify a person or place in a photo belonging to someone else.

“Our most treasured family heirlooms are our sweet family memories.” - Anonymous


Family history/genealogy activities:

Choose a committee chair or other family member who is most knowledgeable about your family history. Many families have an amateur (or not-so-amateur) genealogist who is eager to share the family history.  This is, after all, the reason for the gathering.  It is one of the most memorable activities and all generations will appreciate it.

Oral tradition activities

•       Storytelling: Family reunions are wonderful opportunities to share stories from growing up, as well as to

         catch up on what everyone has been doing since the last reunion or family get-together. Older

         “seasoned” family members especially enjoy sharing stories. Tell stories about extended family and

         ancestors as well. Family stories provide a sense of identity through time and help children understand

         who they are in the world. 

•       Show-and-tell sessions: Ask everyone to bring an heirloom, photo or other memorabilia and share a story

         about it.

•       Family trivia: Gather entertaining facts about ancestors and hold a Trivial Pursuit-or spelling bee-style

         quiz. Small, framed photos make good prizes.

•       Family history questionnaire or interviews: Questionnaires can be created & completed ahead of the

         reunion. You can include a questionnaire on the reunion website or the Facebook group page. You can

         also send one with the invitations and members can return it with their official RSVP’s. Interviews can be

         conducted at the reunion itself. They can be done as a one-on-one interview or as a group round-table

         activity. Below are some questionnaire/interview question suggestions-   

•      When and where were you born?

•      What were your parents’ names?

•      What is your happiest memory of your father? Your mother?

•      What is the most important lesson your parents taught you?

•      What are the names of your grandparents?

•      What is your happiest memory of your grandfather? Grandmother?

•      Where did you grow up?

•      What did you do for fun as a child?

•      How did you like school?

•      What did you want to be when you grew up?

•      Tell me about your first date.

•      How did you meet Grandma/Grandpa?

•      Tell me about the day my mom/dad was born.

•      What advice would you give to new parents?

•      What jobs have you had?

•      What are your strongest memories from your time in the military?

•      What would be your recipe for happiness?


Some things to keep in mind when developing family interviews:

•      Decide which questions you want to ask individually, and ones you want to ask the whole group.

•      Start off with a question that would be fun & easy to answer.

•      Be creative in presentation - Pass around a bowl of homemade fortune cookies with heritage questions

        inside or send around a hat with those questions on slips of paper. 

•      Try not to ask leading or strictly “yes” or “no” questions - Occasionally you’ll have to draw information out

        of people. If your initial question doesn’t stimulate any meaningful answers, stories or conversation, you

        may want to have related follow-up questions or a relevant story of your own in reserve. 

•      Listen respectfully to different viewpoints - Not all family members will remember family history the same

        way. Some will recall certain family experiences in a positive regard, others not so much. Accept & respect

        all points of view when they come up.

  •  Be sensitive about touchy subjects - Some recollections can be embarrassing, divisive or painful. Steer the  conversation to positive (or at least meaningful and poignant) memories if you can—there’s no need to  have the family history Q&A session turn into a family therapy session. 

•      End the session with a fun or positive topic.


Family history documentation activities

Develop a family tree: There are many apps dedicated to helping folks set up family tree charts. This can be done prior to the reunion & you can print one from your genealogy software or draw your pedigree on taped-together sheets of paper (or butcher paper) for display at the event.

Create DVD’s: Another great project is to convert your old home movies and videotapes of past gatherings to DVD and give them out as mementos at the reunion. 

Reunion photo collective: Place disposable cameras around the reunion site to capture future memories of the event; younger kids will have fun using these. Or have guests upload photos they take with own cameras or their phones to the reunion website or Facebook page. This collective can later be used to assemble physical photo albums, scrapbooks, calendars and family history books which can then be offered for sale as a fundraiser for future reunions.

Video reunion footage: Aside from allowing those who could not attend to relive the reunion fun, this option lets everyone have a “real-time” record of the family history discoveries made during the reunion — it’s ideal for preserving and sharing interviews or storytelling sessions. DVD’s can also be made & sold for fundraising for future events.

Reunion portrait: Don’t pass up the opportunity to shoot a group photo while you’re all in one place.

Family recipe book: Gather recipes of old traditional favorites from generations past, recipes with new twists on traditional favs, and new recipes from younger generations, submitted on the reunion website or Facebook group page.  Include photos of family chefs & bakers along with stories about their goodies. This is also a great item to offer for fundraising. If you’re having a family cookoff/bakeoff at your reunion, be sure to post notice of it ahead of time.


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