A Family Tree Brought to Life: Arranging a Family Reunion

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Tracing your family tree (or genealogical research, to give its proper name) is a fascinating hobby. Once people get the bug, there seems no end to what can be discovered. If you reach the end of the line going backward in time, you can reverse the research and spread outwards to discover more of your ancestors’ descendants. In the end, you will find that you are related to a huge number of people living across the globe. Wouldn’t it be great to bring them all together to celebrate your shared lineage?

Form a Team

There is likely to be a lot of work involved in a family reunion and you can’t do it all yourself. Start by getting together a few members of the family who should be enthusiastic and able to help. Your first meeting will be to establish some sort of vision for the event; subsequent meetings will share out the jobs to be done (finance, food, accommodation, entertainment, memorabilia, etc.) and structure the plans.

Set the Scale

Working on the level of enthusiasm (or lack of it) in your initial discussion, decide how big an event you want. The sort of event appropriate to a few dozen cousins ready to re-forge old bonds and share memories is very different from getting together a couple of hundred people who have only just learned of each others’ existence.

Choose the Venue

You will want to celebrate in some place that has significance for the family. For a small gathering, it might be your grandparents’ old house, if it is still in the family. For a large group, you might want to use a hotel in your ancestor’s city. Suppose 150 years ago, your great-great-grandfather settled in Baltimore, then you might go for a reception and accommodation in a big city hotel there for his many descendants.

Decide the Timescale

Organizing an event like this takes time. Aim for 12-18 months—this will allow everyone to book the event in their diaries and to start saving if necessary. As you send out invites, encourage people to contribute their memories and stories to an online group, to maintain interest.

Plan the Program

You want this event to be truly memorable. You will want opportunities to meet each other, to share stories, to watch presentations, to honor the elders, to tour significant sites, and of course to eat and drink.

Not everyone (especially children) will want to spend their whole vacation with the group, so if you are based at a hotel, make it somewhere with easy access to other attractions in the locality. Again, for Baltimore, the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace by Marriott would be ideal.

Start the Ball Rolling

When you have your team together and the framework of the event is clear in everyone’s mind, it is time to act. Book your venue and send out your invitations. There is no going back, and as it all comes together you can only trust that your ancestors would be proud of you.

Laura Cramsie