View Full Version : Newbie going to a Family Reunion

24 July 2008, 01:41 PM
Hello all,

So I am really new to Genealogy. I have always been interested, but haven't had the time (and still really don't). I got hooked on Ancestry.com, which was great because it really got me into this exciting new hobby in a very short amount of time. However, looking at some of the posts here, I know that I need to go back and redo most of the work that I have gathered on there. There is nothing like your own research ;).

I have read through some of the other threads about how to get into doing research and storage of data. But I have a unique opportunity to go to a family reunion and get alot of information in a very short amount of time. And since I have moved out of state from the rest of my family, I won't get this kind of chance again any time soon.

They know that I am coming and that I want to talk with people about family history, but I don't know the best way to go about doing so.

I am taking my macbook pro, a scanner, and a digital voice recorder. I was thinking about starting with some of the older members first and getting any stories they may have about the family recorded. I was also going to see if any of them have documents like birth/death/marriage/church/pictures that I could scan in. Or maybe I need to start with pedigree charts? Just getting names/dates?

I am feeling a little overwhelmed and just wondering if someone has some advice/experience.


Bob White
24 July 2008, 03:53 PM
Been in your shoes. Put your priority on asking questions and recording the information. You have plenty of time to update your Mac later.

Print out a family tree to spread on a table or tape up on a wall. This is a real ice breaker. I've told people to feel free to write on it but "please please sign your name to the notes that you added" so that I know who to followup with later.

Take your digital camera with you. Not only for people photos but most digital cameras can do a darned good job with documents like maps, certificates, whatever relatives have brought with them.

I have found the scanner to be very useful to scan photos that people bring with them that very often they don't want to loan but have no problem with you borrowing for an hour to scan and return the original.

If you are not the organizer, get contact information of the attendees from the organizer or from each person you talk with. You are going to have more questions as you later sit down and record/make sense of what you brought home with you.

Be alert for "treasures." Example: At one reunion, a cousin had printed copies of many photos and labeled them. As she had the originals, she didn't want to take them back home and was about to throw them away. I "volunteered" to take them down off the wall and take them with me. I ended up with "new" photos and was able to add several more ancestors to my records.

And, don't forget to have fun!

Ronald N. Gowe
24 July 2008, 06:42 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with what Bob has posted. An important step that I have found very useful is to have a coil bound scribbler on a table close to the door as a "Guest Book" with the pages already marked in columns with: PRINT Name, snail mail address, e-mail address, telephone number, parents names and number & names of children and relationship to you, if known.

Also, I had printed a descendent chart of what I already had which was posted on a wall. During the reunion, before attendees were beginning to depart, I made an announcement to all of the wall chart and the book and asked that they make sure to view the chart and sign the book. The address, either snail mail or e-mail, is very important for later follow-up.

Enjoy your get-together.


24 July 2008, 07:13 PM
These are all very good suggestions. I would like to add that you might like to print out a supply of blank forms (on the menu Create, Blank Forms) for people to fill out. It is really important to get contact information because you will have questions! I've found that talking to people is very productive in getting the really interesting family stories. It's hard for people to spontaneously remember things that may be of interest -- most of us need to be prodded to remember.

I hope you have a wonderful time.

24 July 2008, 09:26 PM
I agree with the others about digital camera, scanner, & audio or video recorder. I would suggest blank Family Group or Person Sheet forms (CREATE icon in tool bar, then click on BLANK FORMS. You can then click on LAYOUT and accept the DEFAULT form or choose your own format. You can play with this feature until you're happy with the new BLANK form you've created). Have the people who are willing to speak/or share info with you fill out for you. One other thing, I've done a couple of interviews with senior members of the family. I've found it is more productive to ask OPEN ENDED questions such as: "What family stories do you remember?" Rather than ask them "Do you remember any family stories?" The first is intended to get them to discuss the details of family stories, the second is a YES or NO QUESTION. There are several samples of OPEN ENDED questions on-line. I've found it better NOT to interrupt their story with questions. Wait until the end of the story to do any follow-up questions.

Happy Hunting!

25 July 2008, 02:14 AM
I am feeling a little overwhelmed and just wondering if someone has some advice/experience.


Bob has the right ideas. I'll just add in a bit here and there.

Get a tape recorder, and a bunch of tapes. Start each tape with; [date][place] [I'm talking to...] Have enough tapes you don't have to record but one person/group per tape. Buyu some microphones from Radio Shack. The ones that pin to your lapel and use a battery. I can't remember their name, but they make fablous recordings. buy a pair and a "Y" connector for your Mike input.

Have Heartland family graphics <http://www.familygraphics.com/> do a wall chart for you in one long piece and hang it for all to view. Add names and contact info for people who can add material. The charts they did for me have been a wonderful help over the years.

Don't try to fill in Reunion at the reunion. Use the time to "Meet, Greet and Make Contacts". RECORD stories, materials, photos, whatever. Who has them and how you can gain access A video camera, Espically one capable of taking stills, can be a major help. TALK to people. Get known by them and get them interested in the FAMILY's genealogy. Leave them feeling good about the project and about helping out. Get interviews with the old folks. Let them know how valuable they, and their memories are. Find someone in the core family group who would be willing to help. To do interviews and orther research locally. Networking is the name of the game.

Don't forget to record the backside of documents. One of mine had a number that turned put to be the locater for a police file on the death.

Schedule a little extra time if you can. Before and/or after the reunion.

Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed! Reunions can do that to genealogists. Just remember to smile, enjoy yourself, and keep your ears open!