Holding a Family Reunion

Author: Mark W. Swarthout
Published on: July 7, 2003

Well, it is that time of year again. Summer has descended upon us with a bang, in some places more literally than in others! In the midst of trying to get my house remodeled, dealing with the kids being out of school, vacations and summer events, I volunteered to host the family reunion over Labor Day weekend. Now this may not seem like a big deal to some, but it gets bigger then one would expect!

Here are some things I’ve learned, mostly through the passing down from previous organizers:

Consistent Dates: We always hold ours over Labor Day Weekend. No guessing as to when it is going to be!

Location, Location, Location! So many things to take into account for this one!

Historical Significance – Is there a historical reason to hold it at a specific location? We seem to alternate between New York and other sites, mostly due to the area being the place all the original family members resided.

Key Activities – I’m hosting in Detroit for two specific reasons. The first is the Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library. The New York Times lists it as one of the top five locations to do genealogical research in the United States. We will be spending the first day of the reunion here, to allow everyone to read, copy and learn as much as they can. The second is the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Truly an educational site we will be spending the second day here. With both an inside and outside area, there is something for everyone! Kids can run and yell in the sun and fun and others can tour the museum, even if it rains!

Accommodations – Well, this one can get you into lots of trouble! Families are very diverse. Some are perfectly happy in the local $29 a night hotel off the freeway, while others want more posh arrangements. And the less expensive location will not have alternative facilities, such as meeting rooms and banquet facilities. The best solution is to provide a central location with alternative facilities nearby.

Meeting Room – This is the reason many of us go to these reunions! We want to talk with the masters of the genealogy. We want to fill in the missing links, and gaps that we may have and that hopefully someone else has solved! And of course we want to catch up on the latest news from all the distant cousins. There needs to be a place where the serious genealogists can spread out their information and share their charts and books and other good stuff.

Time – Lots of time! There should be lots of time for all of the family to meet and talk and gab about stuff, without feeling like they are being shoved from one place to another. A couple of the meals will be informal and leisurely allowing lots of time to talk. Sunday has two rather brief activities. We’ll take a couple hours and visit the Titanic Exhibit, and we’ll have a banquet, with a fund raising auction and a brief business meeting, and perhaps even a guest speaker.

Activities – Another thing to take into consideration is the group of people you have. Kids are not going to like being stuck in boring old museums all the time, even if it would be good for them. And white water rafting is probably not a good combination for the older crowd. A good mix of activities, with the ability to opt out of those that just aren’t for them is always a good plan.

Transportation - Always a sticky one! On one hand, chartering a bus to run people around in is an expensive proposition. But losing the tail end of the convoy can put a big hole in things also! Not to mention the parking challenges, providing directions to dozens of drivers and getting everyone there on time.

The contacts, the information and the camaraderie makes one really feel a part of the family! Here is a great chance to fill in those missing links, talk with others that knew some of your more recent ancestors, and learn more about the history of your family.

Don’t have a family reunion scheduled? Perhaps you should put one together! And the web can provide lots of information about locations, historical spots to visit and is a great way to put it all together.

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Updated on 10/25/2005