Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary presents 30 ideas to help make your family reunion a great success and ensure that everyone has a fun and memorable time.
Family reunions are great opportunities for genealogists: a chance to meet relatives, share heirlooms, and hear—and record—family stories. They are also events for everyone to enjoy and have a lot of fun!
Whether your family reunion is to be held at someone’s home, a historical site, a tourist attraction (such as DisneyWorld) or on a cruise ship, you’ll want to engage children and adult attendees in memorable activities.
The possibilities are endless, but if you can’t think of any fun family reunion ideas, try these timeless favorites.
1) Cooking contests: This is always a family favorite, whether you challenge family with a chili cook-off or an old-fashioned pie eating contest.
2) Family diary and letter reading: Take turns reading inspirational (or juicy) passages of old family diaries and letters.
3) Family bingo: Instead of numbers, make up cards identifying ancestors or historical facts.
4) Family feuds: Pit one family against another, whether by playing “tug of war” or by engaging teams in a version of the TV show.
5) Family food and cookbooks: Serve Grandma’s favorite pie, or dishes from earlier reunions. Compile the recipes into a heritage cookbook.
6) Tell family stories: This works well around a campfire or by candlelight—especially if there are any family ghost stories.
7) Family trivial pursuit: Everyone submits unusual or unknown facts about themselves that are read aloud without identifying the family member. Teams compete against each other—and to get the ideas flowing, create categories such as: “What I did while visiting my grandparents”; “How I got into trouble”; “Love and marriage”; “Oh my gosh”; “Home town trivia”; “Veterans”; “When and where”; and “My funniest or most embarrassing moment.”
8) Fashion shows and hat parades: Supply hats and clothing from historical periods for children to play dress-up. The more unusual they are the better. Each participant wears a badge that says on the outside “Who am I?” and, when flipped over, identifies the ancestor or time period. The child gets a point if they fooled the guesser, and the adult guesser gets a point for a correct answer. Have participation prizes for the children and a separate grand prize for the adult with the highest score.
9) Family field trips: Take caravans to see places of family interest. Use cars, busses or even arrange a hay ride. Your relatives will love walking in the steps of their ancestors.
10) Gencaching: This is a type of hide-and-go-seek treasure hunting, and similar to geocaching, whereby items are hidden and family members hunt for them. To avoid using a GPS, hide small items around a park or room.
11) Greeting cards: Have family members sign greeting cards for those who could not attend because of scheduling conflicts, financial limits, health reasons or otherwise. A modern equivalent is to include remote visitors, by using Skype or a smartphone’s FaceTime or conference settings.
12) Jigsaw puzzles: Turn family photos into jigsaw puzzles or create one out of a large-format family tree chart. A twist on this is to give each family several pieces and ask them to complete the puzzle. The family member that finishes first gets a humorous prize.
13) Map makers: Use maps as display items or table cloths—and encourage family members to mark hometowns or where they were born or married. Another option is to plot the migration path of your ancestors. A twist would be to repurpose a map as a type of dartboard attached to cork. If someone hits their hometown a bullseye is awarded, with lesser points awarded for being within range.
14) Memory quilts: Have handicraft-inclined family members piece together autographed quilt squares into souvenir pillows and blankets.
15) Record oral histories: Interview family members about their memories. To get started, bill this as “everything you always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask.” Starter question include: “What is your earliest memory?”; “What do you remember about your grandparents?”; “Would you tell us about serving your country during the war?”; “How did you meet your spouse?” and “Who came to your wedding?”
16) Photo displays: Display photos and artifacts at the reunion, including: Bibles, medals, family jewelry, and quilts.
17) Photo identification (ancestors and living family): Take a historical photo and do a guessing game as to the person, time or place. One of the cutest ideas is: “Guess the baby.”
18) Picture memory game: Make two copies of a variety of ancestor/family photos. Turn upside down and mix them up. Participants then take turns turning over two cards that they think will match. If guessed correctly, another turn is granted; if not the next person or team gets to try.
19) Ancestor picture trading cards: Search the Web for sites to make ancestor trading and playing cards. Some are sold at a reasonable cost and they make for wonderful game prizes or souvenirs.
20) Quizzes: Print copies of quizzes from GenealogyBank blogs (see list below) and see who does the best.
21) Reenactments: Write sketches about veteran ancestors for family members to act out—and if possible, dress in period costumes.
22) Sack races: This can be done individually or in pairs. If you prefer teams, two participants each insert a leg into a shared sack or pillowcase. The winning team is the one who crosses the finish line first.
23) Silent auctions: To offset the reunion expenses, auction re-gifted family treasures. Ideas include: an old family photo, Grandpa’s golf club, Mom’s skillet or a child’s artwork.
24) Sing-alongs: Combine traditional and family favorites into a songfest that includes hymns and patriotic music. Engage a family musician to play an instrument or use recordings. This works well if you provide sheet music or songbooks.
25) Display old family slide shows: Display slide shows to run in the background for inside gatherings. Collect photos in advance or sneak in ones taken during the event. To have fun, try body-switching. For example, grandpa’s face could be added to the body of his favorite pet.
26) Design t-shirts: Design a t-shirt prior to the event, or use markers to create them during the reunion.
27) Telephone game: All relatives get in a line, and then the first person whispers a family secret into the next person’s ear. The secret is repeated and passed along until the last person states what words actually reached them. Messages always get garbled in this game, and answers can be hilarious.
28) Family history time capsules: Create time capsules with written family stories, photos and artifacts, along with memories from the current event (for example, the schedule of events). Send the time capsules home with families to bury on their properties. Another idea for those on a cruise is to launch a “message in a bottle” and see how long it takes until it comes back to the family.
29) Videotape your family reunion: Take videos of family activities and request that relatives state their names and relationship to others. You don’t want your great grandchildren wondering who “Butch” was in your video.
30) “Where?” or “What is this?” game: Engage attendees in identification guessing games of antique items. If you don’t have real items use photos, such as fire bellows, lanterns, manual typewriters, suspenders and spinning wheels, which will especially fascinate the youngsters.
Be sure to share activities, games and ideas from your past family reunions in the comments section below. We’d love to read about them!
GenealogyBank Blog Posts That Feature Quizzes:
- Job Names in Historical Newspapers: Researching Old Occupations
- Historical Job Names in Newspapers (Part II)
- Early Women Occupations, Jobs & Avocations
- Old Diseases & Early Medical Terms in Historical Newspapers
- Nautical Terms & Phrases Found in Old Newspapers
- SSDI Quiz: Understanding the U.S. Social Security Death Index
- Nursery Rhyme Origins Quiz: Meanings & History behind the Rhymes
Related Family Reunion Article: