10 Fun Family History Activities for Family Reunions
From Kimberly Powell
Like many families, you and your relatives may have made plans to get together this summer. What a great opportunity for sharing stories and family history! Give one of these 10 fun family history activities a try at your next family reunion to get people talking, sharing and having fun.
1) Memory T-Shirts
If you have more than one branch of an extended family attending your reunion, consider identifying each branch with a different colored shirt. To further incorporate the family history theme, scan in a photo of the branch's progenitor and print it out on an iron-on transfer with identifiers such as "Joe's Kid" or "Joe's Grandkid." These color-coded photo t-shirts make it easy to tell at a glance who is related to who. Color-coded family tree name tags offer a more inexpensive variation.
2) Photo Swap
Invite attendees to bring their old, historic family photos to the reunion, including pictures of people (great, great-grandpa), places (churches, cemetery, the old homestead) and even previous reunions. Encourage everyone to label their photos with the names of the photographees, the date of the photo, and their own name and an ID number (a different number to identify each photo). If you can get a volunteer to bring a scanner and laptop computer with CD burner, then set up a scanning table and create a CD of everyone's photos. You can even encourage people to bring more photos by offering a free CD for each 10 photos contributed. The rest of the CDs you can sell to interested family members to help defray costs of the scanning and CD burning. If your family isn't very tech-savvy, then set up a table with the photos and include signup sheets where people can order copies of their favorites (by name and ID number).
3) Family Scavenger Hunt
Fun for all ages, but an especially good way to get the kids involved, a family scavenger hunt ensures plenty of interaction between different generations. Create a form or booklet with family-related questions such as: What was great-grandfather Powell’s first name? Which Aunt had twins? Where and when were Grandma and Grandpa Bishop married? Is there someone born in the same state as you? Set a deadline, and then gather the family together to judge the results. If you wish, you can award prizes to the people who get the most answers correct, and the booklets themselves make nice reunion souvenirs.
4) Family Tree Wall Chart
Create a large family tree chart to display on a wall, including as many generations of the family as possible. Family members can use it to fill in the blanks and correct any inaccurate information. Wall charts are popular with reunion attendees as they help people visual their place within the family. The finished product also provides a great source of genealogical information.
5) Heritage Cookbook
Invite attendees to submit favorite family recipes -- from their own family or one passed down from a distant ancestor. Ask them to include details on, memories of and a photo (when available) of the family member best known for the dish. The collected recipes can then be turned into a wonderful family cookbook. A great fundraising project for the following year's reunion!
A rare opportunity to hear interesting and funny stories about your family, a storytelling hour can really encourage family memories. If everyone agrees, have someone audiotape or videotape this session.
7) Tour into the Past
If your family reunion is held near where the family originated, then schedule a trip to the old family homestead, church or cemetery. You can use this as an opportunity to share family memories, or go a step further and recruit the clan to clean up the ancestral cemetery plots or research the family in old church records (be sure to schedule with the pastor in advance). This is a particularly special activity when many members are attending from out-of-town.
8) Family History Skits & Re-enactments
Using stories from your own family history, have groups of attendees develop skits or plays that will retell the tales at your family reunion. You can even stage these reenactments at places that are of importance to your family such as homes, schools, churches and parks (see Tour into the Past above). Non-actors can get into the fun by modeling vintage clothing or ancestral outfits.
9) Oral History Odyssey
Find someone with a video camera who is willing to interview different members about the family. If the reunion is in honor of a special event (Grandma and Grandpa's 50th Anniversary) ask people to talk about the guest(s) of honor. Or ask questions on other select memories, such as growing up on the old homestead. You'll be surprised how differently people remember the same place or event.
10) Memorabilia Table
Set up a table for attendees to bring and display treasured family memorabilia - historic photos, military medals, old jewelry, family bibles, etc. Be sure all items are carefully labeled and the table is always hosted.
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