Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Family Reunion Preparation
September is a big month for family reunions, especially in my family I have five that I try to attend every year if possible. The first one I went to as a child was my father's family, the Dunns. The best memories were of eating til I was stuffed, listening to an uncle play his banjo, and then going to the playground with my sister and cousins. That's how we got to know each other. I never did know what dad was doing while we were at play, I suppose just spending time with siblings talking.
Now that I'm grown I attend family reunions for a different purpose, collecting more family history and family stories. At first I just asked questions and got little feedback. But I found if you step back and give them some room and put an old family heirloom or a photo album on the table, everyone has some sort of comment or some story to tell. I have put together a binder with old photos of people and places, old homesites, a favorite pet, etc. In between the photos I threw in a few documents to get their attention. The photos attract them, but the documents bring out the latent family historians.
The last reunion that I started going to was a "lost community reunion," from Russell County, Kentucky called the Indian Creek Reunion. These types of reunions give you a different type of view on your ancestors. You can hear stories of their neighbors and possibly distant cousins. This is especially helpful if you don't have many family stories handed down in your own family. Their stories can corroborate the stories in your family. It's interesting to get another family's point of view. Maybe some sort of community event occurred and your ancestors might have played a part in it that you never knew about. You might talk to someone that remembers things that your grandparents had forgotten. I'm often asked "who were your grandparents?" They've said "yes, I remember them, I remember the time your grandfather . . ."
These reunions can be an untapped source of new information. You get a sense of real community between these people. It's going to be hard this year to pick which ones to attend, but I'll try to make them all if I'm not worn out by the middle of September. Check in your area to see if there is some sort of community reunion, or like in my home county here in Indiana, an Old Settlers Reunion. They all have something valuable to offer for you family history.