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 thisMartha 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 hereto 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: Snapfishoffers 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.
Have you ever brought back a favorite family tradition from your childhood? I did that with a favorite Memorial Day tradition–revived with a little help from YouTube.
Deep in the hollows of Virginia lived ‘Big Grandma’ with her nine children. She was a mountain woman, schooled only in the herbs she could sell for money. Celebrations were few, but Decoration Day was special. She would gather her children together to make crepe paper flowers and then hike up the mountain to lay them on the graves of loved ones.
This year, I revived this tradition by teaching her great-grandchildren the art of making crepe paper flowers for Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day.) It wasn’t easy. My mother hadn’t made crepe paper flowers with us since I was 10 years old!
First, we had to find the crepe paper. I tried using crepe paper streamers, but the paper was too delicate and not stretchy enough. Crepe paper is unique. It is strong and very stretchy which lends to the realistic shape of petals and leaves. With a little help from Google, I found PaperMart, an online store that sells rolls of colorful crepe paper for $1.93 a roll. Each roll is 8 feet long and 19 inches wide. A roll this big will create bouquets of lovely flowers!
I ordered a variety of colors for petals, some green for the leaves, and yellow for the middles. Floral stem wire, floral stem tape, paddle wire in 24 gauge, and tacky glue are other must-haves.
Without Grandma around, it was left to me and Mom to remember how to make each type of petal. YouTube to the rescue! With videos like the one below, we were able to re-teach ourselves the techniques for creating beautiful roses, peonies, morning glory, and mums. (Click here to read more ideas on using YouTube for family history research.)
After family dinner, we gathered together as mothers, sisters, and cousins to laugh and giggle as we tried to create each piece. I was able to share with the next generation the story of Decoration Day in the “holler.” Many of the young ones asked, “Why can’t we just buy the flowers?” I am sure it would have been easier and quite a bit quicker to buy flowers, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to share this tradition with them for the world.
This week, we gathered as an extended family to place our crepe paper flowers on the graves of our ancestors. You know what? When we came to Big Grandma’s grave, all the children wanted their flowers to be placed there. They remembered! My heart was full and I could imagine Grandma looking down at all these little children as they were following in her footsteps.
A Memorial Day tradition like this is a wonderful way to teach family history to our children. Other ideas include learning a hobby that our ancestor enjoyed. Several years back, I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar like my uncles did. It was their favorite past time to get out the guitars for an old-fashioned singin’ after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. The family would gather in the living room to sing favorites like “Amazing Grace,” “When the Roll is Called up Yonder,” and “Jesus is Coming Soon.” A new guitar and YouTube practice tutorials and I was strumming along with them at the family reunion.
With today’s easy access to online tutorials and videos, you can learn and share your ancestors’ lives in this unique and personal way. Pick something today and share your favorite family traditions and past times with your loved ones.
Coloring books are all the rage for adults and kids. Let this project and these free online tools inspire you to create a coloring book to celebrate your heritage.
Last Christmas, my mom Cheryl McClellan created a coloring book for our extended family out of family artwork. She requested copies of line drawings from every willing relative, especially her grandchildren (ages 3-20). Then she added her own childhood artwork, some of mine, and some of her mother’s, so four generations are represented.
The flowers on the left, originally painted by my grandma, wasn’t as easily colored because of all the dark areas. My mom’s childhood drawing and my son’s, on the right, both made very “colorable” images.
Then she simply photocopied each page to make it into a coloring page. She experimented with the black-and-white settings until she got the best quality reproductions for coloring.
The grandchildren’s artwork came out the best because they created images meant to be colored (with lots of lines and spaces and no shading). The older artwork reproduced with varying degrees of success. But all were fun to include. She chose not to bind the completed book, so the pages would be easier to color, but instead put each person’s collection of coloring pages in large envelopes.
More tools and ideas: Create a coloring book
To create your own family coloring book, gather family photos (or artwork) from your family archive that would be interesting to color. Consider pictures of relatives, homes, heirlooms, or other objects of significance to your current family life or your family history. The best images will have plenty of contrast in them (lights and darks).
Choose your favorite free online photo editing tool, if you have one. Examples include Pixlr.com and Snapstouch.com. I chose Snapstouch because it’s super easy. Here are the instructions on Snapstouch:
1. From the home page, select which final visual effect you prefer: I chose Sketch. (Depending on the photo and the desired effect, you might also choose Drawing or Outline.)
2. Choose your image file from your computer.
3. Select additional options, as shown here. (In Sketch mode, you can choose a darker pencil sketch and faces to be refined).
4. Click UPLOAD. Wait for the file to upload to the site.
5. After the upload is complete, you’ll see the option to click SKETCH. Click and wait for a moment.
6. If the final image is not to your liking, play with the options (you don’t need to re-upload the photo to do this). OR switch to a different visual effect and experiment.
7. Click DOWNLOAD when you’ve got the image you want.
Lisa Louise Cooke’s daughter Lacey Cooke shares tips on family history for kids: how to share it with them successfully. (Ignore the eye-rolling!)
At RootsTech 2016, Lisa Louise Cooke took a few moments to chat with her daughter, Lacey Cooke, a recent addition to the Genealogy Gems team. Lacey grew up hearing her mom’s family history stories but never appeared to be “bitten by the bug” in the same way her mom was. Now that she’s a little older and taking more interest, Lacey responds to all those childhood stories and offers some buy x pills online advice to other genealogists.
Check out their video conversation here:
Lacey tips for reaching millennials and the next generations:
Bait us with something cool we can discover more about on our own.
Keep it short. Tell us one short, interesting story at a time.
Don’t give up! We are listening, even if we don’t act like it.
In an exclusive interview with Lisa Louise Cooke, Bruce Feiler shares a family history tip from his book, The Secrets of Happy Families.
Family History Leads to Happy Families
At RootsTech 2016, Lisa Louise Cooke had a chance to sit down and chat with New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler. Their topic: how family history can actually help today’s children and families be happier.
The insight comes from Feiler’s new book, The Secrets of Happy Families. As part of his research, he interviewed successful people from all walks of life about how they ran their families. The tips he reports are sometimes surprising, but one rings particularly true for genealogists: teach kids their family history.
Watch the video interview below to see how including old family stories can build more resilient children and stronger family cultures today.
More Ways to Share Family History with Kids
Are you suddenly looking for fun, inspiring ways to share family history with kids? You may enjoy the following articles on the Genealogy Gems blog:
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