Genealogy at a Family Reunion

Posted August 22, 2011 by Geni | One Comment


Last weekend, I spent my saturday in a small town in Ohio. That town is where my father’s family has been for generations, and it’s where our annual family reunion is held. Since I was going to be using this reunion as a way to collect and disseminate genealogical information, I decided it was worthwhile to let you folks in on how everything went down, and what I learned from it.

As it turns out, organization is key. Knowing beforehand the questions you want to ask is vital to doing your research effectively. Visualizing your tree to find the spots where you are lacking information is a great way to brainstorm a list of questions. It’s also a pretty good idea to have pre-made cards with your contact information on them. If people have information for you, they’re going to need to know how to get ahold of you after the event. Don’t spend your whole reunion writing down your email address on cocktail napkins.

Your family at the event probably aren’t going to know as much about genealogy as you do, so be prepared to answer their questions. “First cousin twice removed” might make sense to you, but you might have to explain things more simply by saying something like “We’re cousins because your granddad and my mother were brother and sister.” Distilling your questions and explanations to a more basic form will make it easier to do your research among genealogy novices.

Most importantly, make sure you have a way to take clear notes for your future reference. If you know your Great Aunt Sally has information about her mom’s mom, you need to write that down in the moment. Two or three weeks from now, you’re going to have a hard time remembering what information came from which family member and how to get in contact with him or her. A smartphone, tablet, or laptop is fine, but don’t forget a good old binder or note pad. As long as you can get the information down in a clear and concise way, don’t worry too much about your methodology. You’re going to be re-entering the info into your tree anyway, so just worry about getting the information down in the first place. Of course, you can always just collect emails and then invite them to join your tree here on Geni. That is certainly one way of simplifying your work and embracing collaboration.

If you prepare, you’ll be fine. You’ll have plenty of time to make your rounds, and then still be able to enjoy the party. If you want to learn more about doing genealogy at family reunions, make sure you check out the Family Reunion episode of the Geni Podcast. You’re bound to learn something interesting about your family. If you do, we’d love to hear about it. Make sure to hit us up on Twitter or Facebook with your Family Reunion stories.