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Family Reunion Fun
Family Reunion Fun

Playing Dress Up at Grandma's

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

By Tia Linschied, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

While a family reunion may not sound as exciting as a trip to a theme park or far away land it provides children with an understanding of their heritage. Family reunions are an opportunity to teach the kids about family. Who are our ancestors? Where were they born? Were they involved in the making of history? Who will be attending? How is everyone related? Where will they be traveling from? These are but a few of the questions that are likely to spark the interest of the children.

Genealogy is about more than making a simple family tree. To plan for the family reunion you don't have to start with a blank chart; more than likely you have a family member who has traced your bloodlines for several hundred years. Contact your family genealogist for a copy of their records or join a genealogy group online.

Once you have your family tree, sit down with your children. Depending on their age, there are a variety of ways to get them involved. Younger children can make their own family tree - naming parents, grandparents and great-grandparents - or simply appreciate the hard work that has been done for you. Do any of the names that jump out at you? Is there a family member with the same name? Is anyone named after their mother, grandmother or maybe even an aunt?

What about the dates? Many family trees show when and where the family member was at a given time. You might notice that a great, great, grandfather lived in Georgia during the time of the Civil War. Write down the answers to these questions.

Don't forget to share. Tell your children what you know about family members. They may be surprised to learn that chubby Aunt Sheila, the one that gives slobbery kisses, once helped rescue children from Vietnam.

Involve older children in the research. Turn on your computer or do it the old fashioned way, head to the library and check out books about genealogy and materials that specialize in the historical periods of interest to you. For example find books or websites that talk about Georgia's role in the Civil War and life in the state before, during and after.

Research in hand, ask the kids to prepare a list of questions they would like to ask family members. Did great, great grandpa fight in the war? Was he a slave owner? What did he do after the war? Let the kids continue their research at the reunion. Your family members will be thrilled that you and your children are interested in getting to know your ancestors.

You've covered the people, but what about the land? Family reunions often involve tours of significant landmarks. Even if one isn't planned you can plan your own. Drive around and point out the school your family members attended, the house they grew up in or the property where it used to sit. Help them imagine the urban sprawl as farmland. Knowing a bit about the area will help your kids understand where their family comes from.

After the family reunion get the kids involved in assembling their findings in an album or scrapbook. Ask them to write a report or family history newspaper. Let them share. You may be surprised to learn that Aunt Sheila is no longer referred to as the old lady that gives you a bath when she kisses.

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