This past weekend I attended a family reunion. The funny thing is - we don't call it a family reunion. We might call it a family gathering. In essence, though, for me it absolutely is a family reunion. The ever decreasing older generations of my father's side of the family gather for a wonderful weekend each year in an idyllic New England coastal town. There are twenty of us at most.
The weekend is full of trips to the beach, kayaking, watching sunsets and then it climaxes with an all-family BBQ on the deck. Perhaps it's not your typical idea of a family reunion but for us it provides time for catching up and strengthening ties. However, there is little talk of genealogy or the people who came before us.
My mother's side of the family has a completely different type of reunion. They gather inland on a farm in the Amish country an hour north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania once every four years. All the descendants for my grandparents generation (my grandfather and his two siblings) attend and over the years it has grown to include distant cousins by marriage. All told there are probably 40-50+ people attending from all generations.
We spend the weekend entirely on the farm except for sleeping in our hotel rooms. Activities include archery, shooting, soccer and hay rides. But similar to my Dad's family there is much talking, laughter and catching up. This side of the family is much more inclined, however, to talk about the ancestors. You'll even find people pulling out documents, old photos and sharing information.
The New England reunion takes me an hour to drive to and planning only a week in advance. The Pittsburgh reunion involves a 10 hour drive and booking hotel rooms almost a year in advance. They both have their differences but each add to my sense of who I am and where I came from
Geoff Rasmussen recently attended his 3-generational family reunion near Mount Hood in Oregon. He describes his family reunion this way:
"My favorite part of our reunion at Mt. Hood was the impromptu discussion and viewing of our family's pictures. I plugged my laptop into the TV to show everyone the family pictures we had just taken that day. Then one of my brothers asked to see pictures of our family when we will young. In seconds, I was able to display all of our family's group pictures from birth to the present. Because I had previously tagged all of my digital pictures in Photoshop Elements, it filtered through the 20+ thousand pictures, displayed only those with all 8 of us in the picture, and we had a wonderful trip down memory lane. The grandkids had a blast seeing what their parents, aunts, and uncles looked like."
Genealogist True Lewis' family reunion is probably a little different than most. She attends a really large family reunion every other year. This year there were over 260 people in attendance.
Her family reunion comprises the descendants of great grandfather Ike Ivery, his 3 wives and 23 children. They hold the reunion every two years, which started in 1975, switching between the North and South. They are so organized they already have locations for future reunions - Orlando in 2017 and New Jersey in 2019. To get organized they maintain a Facebook page.
As genealogists we tend to focus on the dead rather than the living. Family reunions are an important way to strengthen ties among living family members no matter what type of reunion you have. It could be as small as five people or as large as hundreds or even thousands. Whatever the size of your family try to schedule time together. Family reunions allow you to strengthen the idea that family history is an important family value. And that will help you ensure that all the research you've done will be passed down to the next generation.
Did you have a family reunion this year? What was it like? How far did you travel? And what was the highlight for you?