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What is Your Family Reunion Like?

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.

The Pierre-Louis boys kayaking with their uncle.

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.

Photo courtesy of True A. Lewis

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?

Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.



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Thank You Marian! Wonderful Piece! and timely. It's "Family Reunion" Season. This will help families start to think about what they need to do to Honor their Ancestors and catch up with the Living! Great Job!

My grandparents had 18 children and 82 grandchildren. Currently there are over 400 direct descendants. While we have a reunion about every three years which draws around 100 people, my cousin had a unique idea for the last one. It was a celebration of what would have been my grandparents 100th wedding anniversary and held in their hometown. With careful planning, it drew around 200 people from around the country. The day started with family church service followed by a pot luck dinner. The room was decorated with wedding photos for each of the 17 children who survived to adulthood. We all had a wonderful time catching up with cousins, some of whom we hadn't seen since childhood.

My mother and father's families both have NC roots so I don't have to travel far to visit the core members. My mother's family reunion is an annual event in August; I co-hosted this year with a second cousin and we added a family history day to the mix, our second time in 3 years doing this. We had 28 at the history day where we toured locations related to our family and 67 at the dinner the following day for a total of about 90 different participants. We invite anyone related to our most distant known ancestor who moved there in the late 1730s, but most are descendants of the same great-grandson of that earliest family. My paternal grandfather had a brother who started a family reunion for his 8 children, but they always invited the families of his siblings as well. I reconnected with them about five years ago and joined about 90 for a 3-day event this month. In September I am invited to attend a reunion in western NC for descendants of my paternal great-grandfather's youngest brother. Because I am the one asking the most questions across the lines, I get invited to gatherings where I might get answers. I guess it pays to be curious.

I just went to a Family Reunion where I didn't know anyone! My 3rd great-grandmother's family has a reunion every 2 years.....usually east of the Mississippi, but this year, it was in SLC so we could do research at the FHL at the same time. I met "cousins" of the Flenniken family for the very first time and was able to view the Family Collection compiled.

I had connected with John the compiler of information a few years ago when reading an obit online and saw the name, "Flenniken". I wrote to "John" to see if it was the same family and look where it got me!
I had only corresponded with John a couple of years ago and it was fun meeting him and others throughout the U.S. This reunion was coupled with research, but some of the members told interesting stories of these ancestors from Ireland. A DNA project is in the offing to connect with any O'Flannigan, Flannigan, Flennken, Fleniken still in Ireland.

Don't be afraid to go to Reunions where you don't know anyone....amazing what you might find!

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