Monday, July 5, 2010

Before Time Slips Away

Before Time Slips Away

The other day, I received word that my aunt, my mother's sister, had passed away.  She was the last of the siblings and now my generation becomes the senior generation of our family. It certainly makes me aware of my own mortality and the need to get my "personal house in order" because my time here on earth gets shorter with each passing day.  When you are young, even at 30, being 70 looks so far away!  But before you know it, there it is, staring you in the face and you are wondering how time slipped away from you so quickly. After all, you have all these things that you still want to do with your life and to fill your days with and you are now running out of time.

How long has it been since you have gotten together with not only your immediate family but your extended family, your aunts, uncles and cousins? With everyone spreading all over the country nowadays, instead of all living close to one another as they did in the olden days, it can be difficult to keep up with all the members of your family and get together often.

School is over for this year and the kids will be out for summer vacation. Perhaps you haven't thought about anything special yet for this summer, finances might be a bit tight so why not plan something close to home that you can all enjoy. How about doing a big family reunion where everyone can get together, share some good food and laughter together.

Many city parks and state run lakes and parks have pavilions that you can rent for the day where you can have your gathering if there are a lot of you that will be getting together. Make it one huge picnic, with everyone bringing something. Maybe all chip in to have someone be responsible for purchasing all of the meat and then everyone else bring covered dishes and drinks.

Use this get together to gather information about your family history.

Be sure to set up some committees to handle the organizing of the event
Have at least a couple of people taking photographs, both casual ones of activities and also group family photos so you can keep track of who is in what family grouping.

A welcome table for people to register at and name tags will be a must

Some activities that you can do at the reunion:

Post a large family tree on a wall  that illustrates as many generations of the family as possible. Ask family members to find themselves, highlight their names, and correct any inaccurate information. The family tree then becomes a record of the event and is a good source of genealogical information. Family members will also have a visual representation of the family structure, its history, and their place in it.

Memory Lane Story Hour. Set aside a quiet place for the younger children to gather with one or more grandparents, aunts or uncles. Ask the adults to tell stories about their childhoods. This is a great way for the children and the older generations to connect. Next, set up a video camera on a tripod (if no one owns one you can use, call camera stores about rentals. It's pretty inexpensive for a single day). Buy lots and lots of blank tapes (if you don't take them out of the wrapper and save the receipt, you can return what doesn't get used and still not run out at the reunion). Next, ask each person (or family) to sit in the chair and tell about their family, the extended family and any family history or lore that they know about. This is especially great if you have several elderly members attending. Ask them to talk about what the reunions were like "back when", or about how their life was as children, etc.You might want to mention ahead of time, in the reunion newsletter that you will send out, that this will be done.  That way people can start to think about what they know about "their" side of the family and maybe even look through their photo albums to jog their memory.

How about a family softball game? 
Bring a bat and a softball and something to represent the bases. Teams can be formed based on any criteria you choose, such as a members of a single family, people with the same surname, people with the same hair or eye color, or people wearing the same color T-shirts.

 Organize a sack race.
Ask each family to bring an old pillowcase or a gunnysack to the reunion for a sack race. You can make this an individual competition or organize teams to compete in a relay-style race.

Volleyball games are always fun!
. If you don’t have a net, don’t worry. All you really need is the ball. However, if you want something to act as a net, use a rope or cord of some kind stretched between two posts or tree trunks.

Play card games. Bring several decks of cards, score pads, and pencils to the reunion so everyone can get involved in a card game. Many families play a traditional card game when they get together, such as Rummy, Canasta, Bridge, Pinochle, Rook, or Hearts. Card games also come in handy when the weather doesn’t cooperate with outdoor activities. Board games are also fun, be sure to bring some for all age groups that will be attending. You might have Chutes and Ladders for the younger children, Monopoly, Charades and Trivia Pursuit for the older group and adults.

Bring old family pictures
, even those of people who are now deceased. Perhaps someone will wish to have some copies made for themselves so be sure to put out an order form to fill requests. Any members who really are into genealogy will appreciate this a lot.

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!

Horse Shoe Tournament
there's nothing like an old fashioned game of horse shoe tossing and most parks have areas already set up.

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 Grand kid." 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. If something like this is cost prohibitive, you might just get different solid color T-Shirts and permanent color marker pens and let each person go around and get signatures of the people in attendance put on their shirts and have them put their relationships under their names.

Family Reunion Memory Tablecloth

Take an inexpensive solid color tablecloth and have everyone sign it using permanent markers. On one of the corners be sure to indicate that it is for the Family Reunion and the date. This can begin a tradition where each year a new tablecloth is created. Each year, bring all the tablecloths that have been created and see how the family is growing!

Many Hands Make Light Work

First of all you will need someone to be the General Organizer of this function, someone that the other committee chairmen can come to for advice and assistance. The person who will be the one to be sure that all committees are functioning properly and completing their assigned tasks.

I would probably suggest that the person who is your family genealogist be the person in charge of this operation.
That person could be responsible for getting a list of all the names and addresses of all family members. Also include their email addresses.

Food -deciding if everyone needs to contribute a set amount to purchase some items, such as meat, soft drinks, paper goods and what "share dishes" will be brought and by whom.
Entertainment - setting up games and entertainment. Supervising the activities the day of the reunion.
Location and accommodations -finding a good place to have the reunion and checking with hotels and motels for discount rates and availability
Newsletter- Make sure you announce the idea of a reunion well ahead of when you wish to have it and give them several dates where they can express their preferences. Be sure to continue newsletters, keeping everyone informed of the progress being made, asking for committee chairmen and volunteers to help.
Post happenings on your family genealogy website or set up a family reunion website. If you already have a family website like we do, post on it frequently about the reunion. This will get everyone excited about the event and assure you of a good turnout. If you do not have a family genealogy website set up, this might be a good time to start one, otherwise put up a website strictly for your family reunion event.

Some websites to consider:

Reunion Websites

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