UNIONS AND REUNIONS
Many opportunities for gathering family information present themselves, but not too many are as fraught with potential as a family reunion. How well it works for you is based on preparation. By thinking ahead and organizing, you can make this or a similar event very fruitful.
Having two dedicated genealogists in the greater family, our family tree is recorded much better than most. We share a consanguinity based on us both being direct great-grandchildren from a shared ancestor. We are connected through the first relative arriving in America on the O’Brien side. Then, due to marriages, we naturally branch off from the other. Regardless, we both prepare for joint reunions; but we do it very differently.
One method Dennis used was bringing his laptop with Family Tree Maker. He left it open and ready for input. His collection method was asking for reviews and confirmations of the data he had in his database. The other data collection hoped for was that reunion attendees would add themselves or their family’s updates. New children, divorces, new spouses, grandchildren, deaths, military duty, all the details genealogists relish.
My approach was more from the educational approach. Knowing the various branches attending, under the umbrella of our shared heritage from our first Irish ancestors to arrive in America, I prepared posters showing each family and their family tree. Attached to each poster was a marker in the hopes that attendees would mark-up the tree with information. Overall, it was a similar approach, but one which could be shared by multiple attendees at a time and low-tech. I also collected their email address (if I didn’t have them already). This way, I was confident in their input. If, for any reason I did doubt the feedback, I knew who to reach out to for a verification.
If you are just starting out on your genealogy search, consider starting with family group sheets at your next family gathering. These forms are available on a number of web sites, but I’ve posted one from Brigham Young University that is very well designed. Ask one member of each family to either fill it out then or mail it to you later. Be sure to offer a stamped, self-addressed envelope to increase the odds of receiving it. familygroupsheet
Bring a recorder with you for oral stories. Once upon a time, taking a tabletop recorder was required. Now, it is so easy with iPhones, iPads, and other digital equipment to be ready in a moments notice. Again, have some questions ready encouraging relative’s stories. The critical stories are usually from the oldest in the crowd. There is a natural tendency and near instinctual drive for them to pass along their memories to ensure, they and the people they built them with are remembered.
There are other ideas for future postings. If you start with these, and take them seriously, you’ll be very busy until I post the next phase!