Organize teams that include members from each generation and each branch of the family. Set out paper bags and ask relatives to deposit questions. Categories can include anything you choose; sports, geography, education, family history, special events. This is an opportunity to share. Welcome family stories that often interrupt the game. This also teaches youngsters that family history is fun.
Adapt historical trivia to the generations of your family. Start with the oldest person present and say, when Oma Wenzel was born, in 1903: The price of gas was ___ per gallon. First class postage was ___. Bread cost ___ per loaf. The ballpoint pen was not yet invented. Credit cards did not exist. The Zip Code was ___ years in the future. Life magazine was ___ per copy. Then use the same trivia: Oma Wenzel’s oldest child, William, was born in 1934, They had a car and the price of gas was ___.
Franklin Buser, a member of Kimmel Cousins, developed Kimmel Geography for Trivia Collectors. Consider the possibilities. Buser found Kimmelton, Kimmel Township and two Kimmel churches in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania; Kimmell, Indiana; Kimmel School, Illinois; Kimmel Hall at Syracuse University, New York; Kimmel Roads in Eldorado, Ohio, Somerset, Pennsylvania and Redford, Arkansas. How about trivia for your family name?
Michele Beckett, Loveland, Colorado, says Newtons chose sides to play the Newton Trivia Game, a rollicking way to share family history. Everyone sent in exploits and stories which were compiled into questions.
The Berry Family Reunion hands out questions on cards as people arrive forcing everyone to talk and ask questions immediately. “Which family member was born at 8:02 AM in a hospital hallway?” “Which aunt attended five different grade schools?”
What does your family do to warm the crowd? How do you get everyone involved and participating eagerly?
Ask teenagers to come prepared to trade school t-shirts. It may mean buying a couple of extras but you’ll be giving extra support to your kids’ schools. Best are shirts that include not only the name of the school but the city and state for out-of-state cousins.
If your reunion includes members from everywhere, trade souvenirs. If everyone brings one, then trading time should start as early as the first mixer/welcoming party. Encourage people to trade and re-trade. As a final activity ask everyone to show what trade they’ve ended up with. They’ll still be trading in cars or at the airports on their way home!
The Barnett Family Reunion has a special trading tradition. Each child digs into his or her toy box for something to take to the reunion. Toys are piled on a picnic table or blanket. Each child’s name is put in a bag and pulled one by one, to pick a ‘new’ toy from the pile.
Whatever the ploy, fun is always the result at reunions!
About the author
Edith Wagner is founder and editor of Reunions magazine, author of Reunions Workbook and The Family Reunion Sourcebook.