Family Reunion Ideas: Top 10 Ways to Incorporate Family History

Family reunions are the perfect place to share your family history with others. The trick is to keep things light and fun!

Family Reunion Top 10

These top 10 family reunion ideas can sprinkle a healthy–and tasty– dose of heritage into your next family gathering.

10 Family Reunion Ideas for Incorporating Family History

1. Family Tree Hopscotch.

This life-sized bean bag toss/hopscotch game quizzes family members on the names of ancestors. It’s aimed at kids, but adults enjoy it, too!

family tree hopscotch great for reunions

2. Table Talk: 

If you’ll be seated at tables, provide an icebreaker that can double as a family history gathering opportunity.

Place a form at each place setting for guests to fill out. (Or a short list of questions for people to answer, if a videographer will make the rounds at each table)

Include questions like:

  • What’s your earliest childhood memory? 
  • Who’s the earliest ancestor you have a photograph of?
  • What are three things you remember about great-grandmother?

Can you imagine how this Martha Stewart placecard on Pinterest (which I found by searching “family reunion history” at Pinterest, a great place for collecting family reunion ideas) might be adapted this way?

3. Put Ancestors at the Center of Things: 

Centerpieces or displays that celebrate your heritage will attract curious relatives and may prompt memories and comments.

One of our Premium members sent us a description of her conversation-starting centerpiece: click here to read about it. 

If guests won’t be seated at tables, set up a family history display table next to the refreshments table (where they’re most likely to walk by!). Let them know that this is their gift to you. You could even have some sort of treat or little sticker they can wear that says, “I shared our family history: Have you?”

4. Sweet Memories: 

Create “Sweet Memories Candy Bars” that feature family history. I write about these in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies. They are great conversation starters–and the candy is a definite incentive to get people talking.

sweet memories chocolate bar

My family adored this customized candy bar

5. Heritage Scrapbook:

A mini, accordion-style scrapbook craft project makes a fun, meaningful activity for all ages. Relatives can work on these alone or in little groups. It’s the kind of project that would be easy to adapt for any family’s background.

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Family History:

Make a holiday craft that celebrates your heritage. Click here for a free PDF with directions on making a heritage Christmas stocking. Or make a family history-themed wreath, following these instructions I posted on YouTube.

7. Games: 

Try a heritage twist on the classic wedding or baby shower games. Create a crossword puzzle or word search with family surnames, hometowns, favorites and more. Here’s a link to one website that creates a puzzle for you for free.

Or invite guests to bring their own baby pictures. Post them for all to see and let your guests guess who each baby is.

8. Cook up some Conversation:

When I was looking for family reunion ideas a while back it occurred to me that my family’s love of food was a great angle to tap into. 

Heritage cookbooks are a time-honored way to share family recipes, and they can double as a reunion fund-raiser if you like.

Ask family members to submit recipes. Add recipes from ancestors. Share them with each family or guest who attends.

Remember, it’s not hard to create an e-book of recipes that you can’t share by email or on Facebook. An easy version of this idea: Snapfish offers a really cute way to share individual recipes on pre-printed cards. Only one or two recipes required to make this a success!

heritage recipes cookbook

9. The Amazing Family History Scavenger Hunt:

Create a list of questions that will require some scavenger-hunt type searching among your relatives.

Questions might include finding someone who has at least 10 grandchildren, was born in California, is about to start kindergarten, likes the Beatles, etc.

Research ahead of time so that questions all apply. This activity gets people talking!

10. DNA Day:

Purchase a few DNA kits for genealogy. Have them on hand in case family members want or are willing to have their DNA swabs done. This is especially great if older relatives are coming, but might not complete the swabs if you mailed them to them.


Did you know you can organize a great family reunion on Facebook–even if not everyone is ON Facebook? Click here to read a post with great tips about using Facebook to keep everyone in the loop and share the good times with those who can’t attend.

Be sure to share this article on family reunion ideas with the family reunion planners you know! It can be so helpful to get a fresh burst of ideas when planning big family gatherings.sharing


Need Family Reunion Ideas? Family Tree Hopscotch

family tree hopscotch 2Recently Lisa heard from Mary Ann, a Genealogy Gems Premium member who met her at the NGS Conference in St. Charles this past spring.  She appreciated the Outside the Box sessions we co-presented along with some of our partner exhibitors, particularly one by Janet Hovorka on family reunion ideas.

“I want to find ways to get younger people in my family interested in the family history,” writes Mary Ann, who says Janet’s session had a “wealth of ideas.” “Ideas started running around in my head related to scavenger hunts, photo guessing games and other things to do when my family gets together every year at Thanksgiving.”

For Mary Ann and the rest of you who want to include heritage among your reunion activities, here’s another idea I just tried. Last weekend, I helped host a RootsTech Family Discovery Day near me (click here to learn more about these free regional events). As part of our activities for children, we created a family tree hopscotch activity in the middle of a gymnasium.

family tree hopscotchHere’s how we did it:

  1. We printed and laminated sheets of paper that said, “Me,” “Mom,” “Dad,” “Grandma (mom’s mom),” Grandpa (mom’s dad),” and so forth, up to great-great grandparents.
  2. We laid these on the ground and taped all the way around them with electrical tape (which removes easily from the floor). It worked best to lay out the great-great-grandparents first (since it was so crowded up there) and then move DOWN the generations, so we’d get the spacing right.
  3. We used more electrical tape to draw relationship lines between parents and then the linking line to each child.
  4. We taped additional questions to the floor around the tree, like: “How many great-great-grandparents do you have?” and “If you have three children, and so do each of your children, and so do each of THEIR children, how many great-grandchildren would you have?”
  5. We supplied beanbags for children to toss to one of the ancestor’s spots, where they could then hop. The challenge was to name that ancestor, which we invited them to do with their parents.

This was a popular activity! I’ve been told that very young children actually learn best when they’re active and moving around. The “under 5” set at the reunion did enjoy tossing the beanbag and hopping around. Several school-age kids commented on how BIG the tree starts to get as you go back in time, and took pride when they could name a relative.

If I had to do it again, I’d make the lower generation squares larger so they’d be easier to hop from. If I adapted this for my own family reunion, I could do it outdoors in sidewalk chalk in a parking lot or driveway. With my own family, I would probably name each person and even try to put a picture or fact or two on each piece of paper about them. This could also be done as a reverse tree that names all the descendants of the common ancestors shared by everyone at the reunion.

how to start a genealogy blogLooking for more reunion tips? Check out my post, Organize a Family Reunion on Facebook: 9 Tips You Can Use.


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