One of my favorite features on MyHeritage family websites is the family events calendar. This calendar automatically populates itself with living relatives’ birthdays and wedding anniversaries. In addition to giving you a streaming calendar feed, you also get helpful reminders of how old that person is turning or which anniversary it is.
As you can see from the image on the right, you can also post new family events: graduations, showers, weddings, and reunions (from a last-minute picnic to a full-scale gathering).
Now you can get those event reminders sent directly to your mobile phone. MyHeritage says, “Enable this feature by going to Account > My profile > Edit site preferences > Family event reminders. Choose the option to recieve reminders via Text Message (SMS) and enter your phone number to start getting reminders of your loved ones’ big days.”
I always wanted to be more like my Uncle John and Aunt Deb, who remember all family birthdays with cute cards in the mail. (Thank you for that!) But I haven’t been organized enough over the years. Sending event reminders to my phone can prompt me to take baby steps forward: to Facebook my cousins when their young children have birthdays, remember important anniversary years and not have to count on my fingers to know how old my brother is turning this year!
Military image at Findmypast.com.
If you have relatives who have served in the military, why don’t you plan a little extra genealogical web surfing time this week? Here are two sites offering free temporary access to records:
1) In honor of Memorial Day in the United States, findmypast.com is offering free searching of its collection of U.S. and international military records from midnight EDT on Thursday, May 23 until midnight EDT on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27.
Findmypast.com hosts over 26 million military records, with an emphasis on 20th-century records. That’s a plus for U.S. military records because so many from the 20th century were destroyed in a huge fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973. For the U.S., you’ll find World War I draft registration cards; World War II Army enlistments and prisoner of war records; Korean War casualties and POWs; Vietnam War casualties and even “casualties returned alive” (people thought to be dead but who came home) and an Army casualty file for 1961-1981.
There’s a much longer list for military records for the U.K. and Australasia, and a short, separate list of Irish military records. I’m guessing many of you in the English-speaking world have relatives who appear in these records.
Anyone can access these records by registering at findmypast.com.
2) In honor of Memorial Day next week, MyHeritage is granting free access to millions of military records from their most popular collections. The records can be accessed from here.
The free offer ends on May 28.
The collections will help you journey back in time to some of the most important conflicts in world history, which impacted American families as well as millions of families worldwide.
Here is the link to their official blog post – http://blog.myheritage.com/2013/05/memorial-day-free-access-to-us-military-records/
Family reunions are the perfect place to share your family history with others. The trick is to keep things light and fun!
These top 10 family reunion ideas can sprinkle a healthy–and tasty– dose of heritage into your next family gathering.
10 Family Reunion Ideas for Incorporating Family History
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.
My family adored this customized candy bar
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.
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.
Be sure to share this article on family reunion ideas with the family reunion planners you know! It can be so helpful to get a fresh burst of ideas when planning big family gatherings.
Our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online includes: the 1891 NSW Australia census;Portsmouth, England electoral registers; Frankfurt, Germany deaths; Massachusetts Revolutionary War soldiers; North Carolina probate and recent U.S. obituaries.
AUSTRALIA CENSUS. FamilySearch has added over 300k entries to its indexed records of the 1891 Australia Census for New South Wales.
ENGLAND ELECTORAL REGISTERS. Findmypast continues to expand its collection of electoral registers with nearly 200k transcripts from Portsmouth, England (1835-1873).
GERMANY DEATHS. Over half a million indexed records and accompanying images are at a new, free FamilySearch collection of death records for Frankfurt, Germany (1928-1978).
MASSACHUSETTS REVOLUTIONARY WAR. A new browsable collection of “index cards to muster rolls of soldiers who served in Massachusetts regiments during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783″ is now searchable at FamilySearch. The card file comes from the Massachusetts State Archives in Boston.
NORTH CAROLINA PROBATE. More than a half million images and 25,000 indexed records have been added to a free collection of North Carolina estate records (1663-1979) at FamilySearch.
US OBITUARIES. FamilySearch has updated its collection of recent U.S. obituaries indexed from GenealogyBank newspaper images. Nearly 15 million records have been added. The index is free to search.
Thank you for sharing these new genealogy records online with your fellow genealogy buddies and society members! You’re a gem!