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Okay everyone!!! This is very very serious.... All joking aside... OUr Family Reunion has been going on since the Civil War, but this year we hit an all time low attendance... Now I understand we can not expect the teeenagers take to over.... But our Reunion and our members are dropping like flies.. They are extremley fragile and aged... They need the next generation to step out and take over.... We can't expect 70 to 80 years to keep running the show. We need everyone's help on this. I'm 57 but my health is a big question mark. I can't fly and don't drive.... But I do a lot of computer work I can travel to New York, Massachusets, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan. anything that doesn't take longer than 12 hrs by bus. I need your ideas on how to keep us alive....

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We have had family reunions for over 60 years, here is how it goes with us. There are basically three family groups of us in Michigan, north south east and west of the state, each family group is responsible for the food and activities for 2 years, almost always we go in a different area each year,then it passes onto the next section of the state, and so on, so our group will organize information and a bulletin to send out each spring to the families Head of Household, we get the info and pass it on to our children and grand children.
The family will search out the areas activities, tours, golf outings, camp sites, bed and breakfasts, we have gone on pontoon rides up the river, kayak down the river, tubing down the river, bonfires. Searching out parks with a covered picnic area and playground equipment, the main meal for all the gathering is on sunday afternoon at 1pm, that one group family takes on the purchasing and preparing the food and everyone pays $6-$8 dollars apiece for each family member, generally under 5 is free,some people can only come for the day, some get local hotel rooms and bunk in together.

Make it fun for the young kids, balloon toss, volleyball games, ring toss, the little toddlers get into a watermelon rolling contest, we don't sit back and watch everyone participate we get involved in discovering what we want to know about our family and extended family. Bringing pictures to share is a big one for us, letters from family members to share also.

Our Family has been in New York since 1653,. That's is when it was called New Amsterdam, We have been holding the Reunion in every state where someone would volunteer to host it. since the Civil War... Now that is a long, long time. Even I hosted it, and I was a rookie... You have to be third generation descentdant to hold office. This is all volunteer work.... There is no pay. I sit at the computer everyday searching for more descendants....Please Contact me at or Mary Swarthout Rindfleisch at
Ask the younger folk what would be interesting to them. It will be easier to get some of the youth to step up if you do a "buddy system" where the younger person is in-charge but there is an "old hand" standing by for suggestions/support if needed.
Dear Kathy,

Following on from other replies here ..Have a look at the replies and links for the Forum posts "Teaching genealogy to young people" and "Youth involvement in genealogy". Set some homework, have a public speaking comp with every one telling an interesting story about a relative, dead or alive - or even about themselves - this could be for young or old. Establish a regular family newsletter preceding the reunion inviting contributions from all ages, include word searches and the like for the young people, this can be a tool as a build up for the actual reunion. See if there is a scrapbooker in the family who could co-ordiante pages and invite contributions (page per family "all about our family in 2009") - which can be compiled into an album for viewing at the reunion - include the heritage side as well of course. Have your reunion date co-incide with the anniversary of an arrival or marriage or death in your family history. Have a guest speaker at the reunion who may be a local and can add some historical context to the place where you are meeting... Check Cyndislist reunions links at:
Kathy, it is not just family reunions it is everything where people have to get together in real time. Genealogical and historical societies as well as other social groups are folding left and right (including a lot of businesses) The internet, I am sorry to say is the main culpert. It is the new "religion", if it not there it doesn't exist! I was talking to a proffessor at a local history conference & told the story about one of his students that came to him saying that he could not find anything on the internet for his class paper he was working on. The professor said that he happened to know that the library had quite a few books on the topic & the student replied "but can I trust them?" !!!!

I heard that there was a study done of genealogies posted on the internet have a 50% error rate. I do not know when this study was done but i just got on RootsWeb - WorldConnect site to correct an error - of the one couple I referred to over 350 had the wrong info and only 3 were correct. Seems like a lot more then 50%.

It is us who have to get the children interested, they all think it can be found on the internet. We need to get them to read at an early age & go to libraries (our State Library is in grave danger and so is Massachussetts'). Teach them about analyzing things they learn about or hear. Take them on your research excursions.

A couple of books that may be of interest in getting your children or grandchildren involved in genealogy: THE HOUSE ON STINK ALLEY by F.N. Monjo deals with the Pilgrims in Holland. THE SECRET OF GUMBO GROVE by Eleanora E. Tate, an African-American girl discovers a famous person buried in the unkempt local cemetery.

I am curious how many here belong to a historical or genealogical society or go to genealogy seminars or workshops?

For those who don't belong to a group might be interested in this:

Good luck, Jim.
You probably have an extended family you can join up with. Try joining forces with an allied family or another branch. The economy is also causing a lot of people to stop paying dues, attending weekends, etc. Give everyone a year off and then have a super fun party, not too expensive or time consuming and make sure it involves the younger set.
Hi all,
First, let me say I've never tried to run a huge, extended family reunion--just small ones where everyone already knows everyone else--but I have been involved in various reunions for a college alumnae organization, and I've worked a lot with young people. My gut reaction to most of the suggestions mentioned so far is that they are not particulary "enticers" to encourage the young, or even the elders to attend, although some of them may be good activities once the gang has come together. You want the kids to learn about their heritage but a reunion is supposed to be fun, not just more schoolwork, so skip the pre-reunion paper writing assignments. Instead, think events! The water balloon, picnic route is fun and should be part of any summer family games, and word searches are good for quiet times--but you can get that at any picnic. Think about what or where is unique to your family or very different from what we do today. For example, I see that your tags include various variations on Swartout. My ancestors (Fergusons) fought under the command of Swartouts during the Revolution, which triggers in my mind the idea of a Revolutionary War theme, but if this isn't the same family, they still came from somewhere and had some history. Could you plan a reunion that lets you walk in the footsteps of your ancestors, either literally (field trip, bus tour, etc.) or figuratively (planned events replicating what the ancestors may have done (from soapmaking to candlemaking to farming/gardening)?

Next, think about how wide-spread is your family or how often you have reunions. Costs of traveling far may be prohibitive for a yearly event or events held too often may infringe upon a family's limited vacation time. Would holding events less often yield greater attendance? In the reverse, if you only have events every 10 years, would 5 years keep the group more closely tied? Also, don't hesitate to plan a reunion that isn't directly tied to family history. Would everyone rather go to Disneyworld than Gettysburg? Then, do that. Sometimes, just getting the family together is more important for the long run viability of the family than hitting them over the head with family history. And who knows, you may find people falling on their own into the "how are we related" or "do you remember" modes.

Maybe you need to take a family poll of interests before planning the next event.

Once you have an event planned, don't forget to make sure everyone goes home with souvenirs to remind them they want to come to the next reunion. A reunion t-shirt is good, but so are "swaps." For those of you who haven't been in Girl Scouts, a swap is a very inexpensive "charm" that an individual brings to a campout or other event to trade with the other people who also attend. Ideally, the charm expresses something about the individual and it should include a tag with name and place from which the person came (not necessarily a complete address). Example:someone from Romeo, MI might bring peach colored pom-poms to which they add googly eyes to make a "wobbly." The peach color symbolizes that the person comes from the peach capital of Michigan. Swaps need to be planned and made ahead of time so inform your family early if this is part of your agenda. Another option might be to make autograph books ( a family craft project!) where attendees can jot special messages (2 good 2 be 4 gotten) in each other's books.

Just some thoughts,
Catherine Davis
This is a PS to my earlier message. I can't believe I forgot to say this, because it is probably the most important point if you truly want the next generation to step up. Do you have any younger people showing an interest? If so, get them ACTIVELY involved in the planning process!!!!! Don't wait for them to volunteer. ASK them to help. One thing I've found in all my volunteer efforts: volunteers always want more volunteers to help out and are bummed that no one will step us. Newbies are afraid the group "in power" doesn't want them and so are afraid to ask if they can help. The result is that the organization is the loser, all for the want of an "ask."



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