Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday's Tip~Gettin' By With Help from Our Friends-The Family Sluether

Today's Tips come from Michael Dyer author of the Family Sleuther Blog. Michael gives us his tips for planning a family reunion.

Summer Is Coming: Time to Plan Your Family Reunion

It’s time for genealogists to think about summer.

I know all of us family historians are currently in our happy place. Winter weather still blankets the country in chilly temperatures giving us a good excuse to cozy up with our research, but it’s time to think of sunshine and the living. It’s time to plan this summer’s family reunion.

Family reunions are the perfect opportunity to set aside our ancestors of yesteryear and engage with those loved ones who share our past. As Alex Haley observed, “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” Family reunions provide us an opportunity to celebrate and remember that shared history while connecting with the living and budding branches of the family tree.

My Family’s Reunion Success
I’ve had some success with family reunions.

For several decades, descendants of my second great-grandmother’s eight children would gather at a Kansas lake over Memorial Day weekend. Camping, fishing, bonfires, and catching up were all on the agenda. The reunions were so popular and well-attended that they regularly made the society pages of the local newspapers.

Sadly, as members of the oldest generation began to pass away, attendance at the reunion dwindled. Eventually, the ties that bind seemed too weak and uncertain – “how are we related?” – and the reunions stopped altogether.

Fast forward to last year when we gathered family that had scattered and lost contact, and brought everyone together for a reunion that saw over 100 people in attendance.

How did we do it? Here’s how and some tips for you to undertake your own reunion.

Three Tips to Organize Your Reunion

1.     Take It Online - Social Media as Event Planner:
Social media is a no-cost tool with expansive reach. I created a Facebook group dedicated to my second great-grandmother. Slowly, membership grew to include many of her descendants. We posted birthday and wedding tributes commemorating her and her now deceased children. In a matter of months, we rebuilt a sense of connection, belonging, and reestablished how we were all related.

With that renewed sense of family and community, we were ready to give the reunions another shot. After reserving a space back at the lake in Kansas over Memorial Day weekend, I created a Facebook event invitation. It worked like a charm! The event invitation spread like wildfire and the RSVPs poured in.

2.     Share Ownership
To help grow participation and interest in the reunion, it’s a good idea to broaden ownership of the event.

Ask for volunteers. Put family in charge of different components. I bet you’ll find that people want to help. They want to have a role to play. Perhaps someone is in charge of reserving the venue, others are in charge of coordinating food, and others are in charge of set-up on the day of the event. Sharing ownership eases the burden off any one person.

3.     Reminder, Reminder, Reminder
Remember, your family is only human. They need reminders, and they’re easy to do with a quick post to your Facebook group. I was able to use humor (posting old portraits of my second great-grandmother – who always frowned with furrowed brow – with text bubbles saying, “I’ve got my party face on. I’ll see yours in May!”). With each posted reminder, the RSVPs would climb higher.

Don’t forget to take photos of the event. I strongly recommend pulling everyone together for one large group photo. Yes, it’s a huge pain in the neck, but I think you’ll discover it’s a tremendous marketing tool for the next reunion.

As soon as we posted last year’s group photo to Facebook, family members who didn’t attend commented that they were locking in vacation days and making arrangements so they wouldn’t miss the next reunion. No one wants to be left out! That’s good for attendance.

Do you have experience organizing family reunions? What tips have worked well for you?

Michael Dyer is author of the Family Sleuther blog (www.familysleuther.com). Since 2010, he’s been an avid family historian pestering relatives, wading through vital records bureaucracy, and passing the spittoon for DNA samples to uncover his roots.

Thanks, Michael for your great tips that will help as we plan a reunion for our family later this year! 

What are your tips for planning a reunion? I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Family reunions are great events. We have a yearly gathering, always on July 4 weekend. People know that is the date & always save it. Lots of fun.

    1. Great idea to be consistent! Thanks, Colleen!

    2. Consistency does help as there's little question year-round about when the next reunion will be held. Smart!