Friday, 9 January 2015

Sharing and Building Family Memories through a Family Reunion

Christina (nee Lee) an Lionel
Sharing family memories is one of the themes on my blog “Family Stories Photographs and Memories” that I enjoy writing about the most.  We spend a lot of time researching our ancestors and sometimes forget to record our own history. I think it is important to take the time to record your own memories and assist in building your families memories.

At the wake of a recent family funeral, a number of relatives commented that “it was nice for the family to get together, even though it was a sad occasion” and “we should make an effort to get together for an occasion other than a funeral”.  These sentiments fuelled a discussion with one of my Aunts and a cousin, and we agreed to put our heads together and organise a family reunion for all our relatives linked to my Nanna (Christina Lee) and Pop (Lionel Carriage) and Nanna’s first husband (Malcolm Michael Shepherd).

A family reunion provides us with the opportunity to share and build family memories as well as discover new links.  As this blog is such a great form for sharing and discussing new ideas I thought I would post my initial thoughts and outline for our family reunion.

The aim of this post is twofold:

     1. To assist other who are contemplating a similar event and more importantly
     2. To seek the wisdom and feedback from others who have organised or attend a family reunion

So here are my initial thoughts on items that we will need to consider for the organisation of the upcoming reunion which we have scheduled for the long weekend in June.

1.  As this is our first attempt at organising a Family Reunion it is important to keep it as simple as possible! (Yep!! the KISS method). 

2.  Organising Committeedecide on the core group of family members who will be involved in organising the reunion, and select one person to coordinate, and keep the communication flowing and follow up on all action items.

3.  Allocate tasks to family memberstaking the time to select areas that they have skills in, e.g., someone with IT skills to set up scanner and copier to make copies of photos on the day, someone who is keen on photography to take charge of taking photos and someone who likes cooking  to organise morning tea.

4.  Select a date and book a venue.We have organised to use the pavilion at the Milton Show Ground, this will provide us with plenty of space, toilet facilities, a kitchen and a large covered space if the weather is inclement. Take time to visit the venue prior to the event to check out the layout and assess requirements, e.g.  Seating, heating, crockery, suitable areas for displays etc.

5.  Decide on the type of reunion you are going to have.  To keep it simple we are going to provide morning tea on arrival and then a picnic lunch, where everyone can bring along their own picnic. 

6.  Family Contacts: Set up master spreadsheet with Family member’s name’s, contact details, connection to the family and details on areas they can assist with. Seek assistance from willing family members to source as many family members contact details as possible.

7.  Reunion Flyer and Letter:
  • Develop a Reunion flyer outlining the main details of the Reunion in both hard and soft copy.
  • Compose a letter of invitation that can be sent by mail or email.  The letter should give detailed information on the reunion, contact details for RSVP or queries, details of accommodation and other attractions in the area and an invitation to assist on the day, or bring along family memorabilia, photos etc.
8.  Budget and Fundraising:
  • Draw up a list of costs for the day, e.g. Cost of Venue hire, morning tea, printing and postage, displays, printing, items for children’s activities, toiletries for the bathrooms etc.
  • Decide on how costs will be covered: Donations of goods and services, small attendance fee or a donation tin on the day of the reunion.

9.  Media and Communication:
  • Distribution of Letter and Flyers, - Circulate letters and Flyers to family members, asking if they are able to forward the invitation on to other family members.
  • Put an advertisement and possible a short article in the local paper.
  • Set up a Family Tree Web site or Family Reunion Page on Facebook – family photos, articles and reunion updates can be shared on this page.
  • Consider setting up a twitter and Google+ group.
  • Closer to the date of the reunion send out reminders and updates.
10. Decide on the Schedule for the Day:
  • Have members of the committee (or other volunteers) on hand when everyone arrives to assist with introductions, name cards and a brief outline of the layout.
  • Initial Welcome – select someone to give an opening welcome and quick outline of the day (perhaps the oldest grandchild or one of the elders of the group?)
  • Presentation – have a short presentation on the history of the family members?
  • Depending on the number of people attending, a quick run around the group to introduce family members.
  • Plan entertainment for the day, plan activities for the children that covers a range of age groups.
  • Consider having a short movie or PowerPoint of photos running, so that people can watch at their pleasure.
11. Photography:
  • Assign one or two people to be responsible for taking as many photos as possible.
  • Organise for a large group photo for all attendees.
  • Provide the opportunity for family groups to have their photo taken (with someone taking down the names of the people in the photos).
12.  Collection of Memorabilia and compiling of Family Tree:
  • Seek assistance from family members to put together the family history.
  • Set up a display of family tree – encourage attendees to make corrections and additions.
  • Collect photos and memorabilia for display at the reunion and encourage families to bring photos and memorabilia on the day.
  • Set up a display of family photos and memorabilia.
  •  Encourage families to bring photos and memorabilia on the day
  • Have a scanner and photocopier set up on the day to collect copies of photo's and to make copies of photos for family members.
13.  Post Reunion:
  • Ask family members to provide feedback and suggestions on the day.
  • Put together Memento of the day, this could include collection of photos and family documents from the day to be sent out to those attending.  This could be in the form of a booklet, CD or usb stick.  Family members could indicate if they would like this memento and pay a small fee to cover costs for this on the day.
I am quite excited and a little daunted by the prospect of organising this reunion in six months, however I am sure we will be able to put our heads together and pull off and enjoyable day for all family who are interested.

Have any of you planned or attended a family reunion recently?  Your feedback and advice on my initial summary of actions would be greatly appreciated. 

Christina and Lionel Carriage with family (hopefully some of these will be attending the Reunion) 
If you are interested, a little more information can be found on Christina, Lionel and Malcolm (Christina's first husband) on these blogs.


  1. My husband's family has had a reunion of just his parents (when they were living) and his siblings (12 originally) and their families. Because most people have to travel a long distance, it always lasts a weekend. A charge per family or per person is paid upfront to cover costs of several meals and a t-shirt. Everybody is responsible for their own accomadations. It has become quite expensive. When we started, everybody stayed at the parent's house or with friends and it was always held at the parent's house.

    They have a reunion of his father's family too that used to take place once a year but now is held irregularly. This included his father and siblings (7 originally) and their families. Now it includes the families and the 1 remaining sibling. The expenses are handled the same way and additionally the dinner is held in a hotel instead of someone's house.

    My own family has had about 3 reunions. These included my father's siblings and families originally. There was no charge, although everybody would chip in for food. Usually there are some free places to stay with relatives. They also last a full weekend. No t-shirts.

    My extended father's family held several reunions - my grandfather's siblings descendents - and there was a charge, a t-shirt, and stay in a hotel.

    1. Thanks for your feed back Kirstin, it sound like you are very experienced in the art of gen- reunions. As this is our first attempt I am all for keeping it as simple as possible. Thanks Di

  2. I organised the Kunkel family reunion when I launched my book. Reunion in Qld and I was in Darwin so a few distance challenges. can offer some suggestions when I'm home with my laptop. Happy to send my notes to you. aAlso Maria Northcote's Genies down Unser podcast addressed this a little while ago.

    1. ThNks Pauline, it would be great to look over your notes when you have time to send them through. Best email is gmail address, thanks di

  3. I LOOOVE THIS DIANE! While I haven't planned any reunions myself, I have family in the US who have - in fact they're having one next weekend in Texas. I shall definitely share this with them :)

  4. Thanks Caitlin, glad you like it. I think I have a busy year ahead with this but if should be fun

  5. One of the things that worked really well on the day of our reunion was for each branch to have colour-coded name was surprising how that made them bond....and be competitive with the other branches ;)

  6. Show off your love for your family and wear your heart on our sleeves! family reunion shirts | funny t-shirts


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