By Nancy Calhoun
July 4th often brings to mind traditions of flags, parades, fireworks, picnics, and many family reunions. Family reunions are an excellent way to make connections with other family members and to gather genealogical information. They may range from a hot dog roast in the local park on a Sunday afternoon to a lengthy cruise to another country.
Many families have a long tradition of an annual reunion. My grandmother's family has gathered bi-annually for their Scott Family Reunion in Smyth County, Virginia, since the 1930s when cousins from Nebraska returned for a visit.
The memories often come when relatives gather who have a common heritage. My family's Fourth of July family gatherings often included fireworks, watermelon and homemade ice cream. I still use genealogy notes acquired when attending a Wilson family reunion. My grandmother's usually quiet cousins reminisced together as they sat beneath the shade trees in Red Rock Canyon State Park.
Even the food reflects the heritage of the family. My grandmother's family always had cornbread, chicken and beans in some form while my father's almost always included stewed apples, apple cake or applesauce. When I hosted a family reunion for my Scott cousins, the menu I prepared included many family recipes acquired from different family members, including the traditional stewed apples, my mother's homemade dinner rolls with apple butter from Virginia, my aunt's gourmet potatoes, cousin Mary Virginia's Italian Cream Cake, and a country ham brought back from a Virginia visit.
The generations can connect with a display of photographs and family treasures. An enlarged family tree can provide entertainment as family members fill in the information and find themselves on the various branches.
Various genealogy magazines at the library offer tips on planning a successful reunion. Muskogee Public Library's book collection also contains books on organizing family reunions. “A Practical Guide to Planning a Family Reunion” by Emma J. Wisdom includes a checklist to follow for getting the event organized, establishing a budget, getting the word out, and activities.
Phyllis A. Hackleman has also authored a “Reunion Planner.” She discusses different types of reunions, selecting the date and location, guest speakers, meal planning, accommodations and transportation, souvenirs and fund raisers, photographers, and building a genealogy including a medical family tree.
“Fun and Games for Family Gatherings” by Adrienne Anderson offers “a potpourri of family reunion ideas,” games for various age groups, cross-generational and ethnic games. The back section of the book is a guide to reunion locations.
“Your Family Reunion: How To Plan It, Organize It, and Enjoy It” by George Morgan discusses using the internet for planning, publicizing, organizing, and locating family members. He also uses the computer to keep records. Forms and examples can be found in the back of the book.
Months before you make the potato salad, start your plan for a successful reunion with a visit to Muskogee Public Library.