These top 10 family reunion ideas can sprinkle a healthy–and tasty– dose of heritage into your next family gathering.
1. Family Tree Hopscotch. This life-sized bean bag toss/hopscotch game quizzes family members on the names of ancestors. It’s aimed at kids, but adults enjoy it, too!
2. Table Talk: If you’ll be seated at tables, provide an icebreaker that can double as a family history gathering opportunity. Place a form at each place setting for guests to fill out. (Or a short list of questions for people to answer, if a videographer will make the rounds at each table) Include questions like, What’s your earliest childhood memory? Who’s the earliest ancestor you have a photograph of? What are three things you remember about great-grandmother? Can you imagine how this Martha Stewart placecard on Pinterest (which I found by searching “family reunion history” at Pinterest, a great place for collecting family reunion ideas) might be adapted this way?
3. Put Ancestors at the Center of Things: Centerpieces or displays that celebrate your heritage will attract curious relatives and may prompt memories and comments. One of our Premium members sent us a description of her conversation-starting centerpiece: click here to read about it. If guests won’t be seated at tables, set up a family history display table next to the refreshments table (where they’re most likely to walk by!). Let them know that this is their gift to you. You could even have some sort of treat or little sticker they can wear that says, “I shared our family history: Have you?”
4. Sweet Memories: Create “Sweet Memories Candy Bars” that feature family history. I write about these in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies. They are great conversation starters–and the candy is a definite incentive to get people talking.
5. Heritage Scrapbook: A mini, accordion-style scrapbook craft project makes a fun, meaningful activity for all ages. Relatives can work on these alone or in little groups. It’s the kind of project that would be easy to adapt for any family’s background.
6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Family History: Make a holiday craft that celebrates your heritage. Click here for a free PDF with directions on making a heritage Christmas stocking. Or make a family history-themed wreath, following these instructions I posted on YouTube.
7. Games: Try a heritage twist on the classic wedding or baby shower games. Create a crossword puzzle or word search with family surnames, hometowns, favorites and more. (Here’s a link to one website that creates a puzzle for you for free.) Or invite guests to bring their own baby pictures. Post them for all to see and let your guests guess who each baby is.
8. Cook up some Conversation: When I was looking for family reunion ideas a while back it occurred to me that my family’s love of food was a great angle to tap into. Heritage cookbooks are a time-honored way to share family recipes, and they can double as a reunion fund-raiser if you like. Ask family members to submit recipes. Add recipes from ancestors. Share them with each family or guest who attends. Remember, it’s not hard to create an e-book of recipes that you can’t share by email or on Facebook. An easy version of this idea: Snapfish offers a really cute way to share individual recipes on pre-printed cards. Only one or two recipes required to make this a success!
9. The Amazing Family History Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of questions that will require some scavenger-hunt type searching among your relatives. Questions might include finding someone who has at least 10 grandchildren, was born in California, is about to start kindergarten, likes the Beatles, etc. Research ahead of time so that questions all apply. This activity gets people talking!
10. DNA Day. Purchase a few DNA kits for genealogy. Have them on hand in case family members want or are willing to have their DNA swabs done. This is especially great if older relatives are coming, but might not complete the swabs if you mailed them to them.
BONUS FAMILY REUNION TIP: Did you know you can organize a great family reunion on Facebook–even if not everyone is ON Facebook? Click here to read a post with great tips about using Facebook to keep everyone in the loop and share the good times with those who can’t attend.