If you’re attending a family reunion this summer, think of it as an opportunity to learn more about your photographs—and create new ones—through creative activities. Invite the whole family to participate.
Document the event.
Every other year, I attend my husband’s family reunion. It’s always great to see everyone, and we usually take lots of pictures, including a group portrait. To each event, one of my husband’s cousins brings along photo albums of past reunions. It’s a lot to carry, but we enjoy reminiscing about previous gatherings while looking at pictures. If your family has regular reunions, I recommend starting this tradition.
Identify family lines.
At large reunions, remembering how everyone’s related can be tough. So use some visual reminders to represent relationships. For instance, have each family member descended from a particular person wear one color. Put a color-coded chart at each table for reference. Or make name tags using copies of photographs of that ancestor.
Set up a mystery table.
Ask attendees to bring copies of their unidentified photographs. Then, post them on a bulletin board and see what happens. The older members of the family are most likely to help with the identification, but don’t discount the young. Kids are good at picking out small details (hence the popularity of the Where’s Waldo? children’s book series). Write a caption on the back of each photo using a soft lead pencil; be sure to include the name of the person who owns the original. You may want to contact that relative later for additional information.
Play matching games.
If you have baby pictures of several family members, you could set up a matching game for kids and adults. Ask relatives to bring pictures and number each one. Then let attendees compete to see who can make the most matches.
Build your collection.
Set a goal to locate pictures of everyone in your family from the 1840s (when photography began) to the present. Ask relatives to bring copies of their heritage photos. Together you can create and preserve a photographic record of your family.
Pack for a reunion the same way you would for a research trip. You’ll be collecting pictures and stories, so bring along a camera that can capture old photos, as well as a tape recorder. You never know what memories a picture will trigger or what new genealogical data will surface at a family reunion, so be prepared. Take time to enjoy the company of relatives, gather family history and solve a few photo mysteries. I know I will.
I’d love to hear about how you use photographs at your family reunion. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.