Summer is family reunion time and it was for our ancestors too. What records and artifacts might our ancestors have left for us to find?
Photographs: The most obvious and prevalent artifact left for us are photographs. If your family is like mine, it’s possible that you have found photographs with groups of people in them, but the quality is poor. Still I would encourage you to look at the whole picture. It’s possible that you might find the reunion was at a favorite fishing hole or the family farm. Other than people what do you see in the picture? Automobiles? Games such as croquet? Blankets, but no lawn chairs or picnic tables? Based on those things and the dress of the family members, can you guess the year this reunion might have taken place? Identifying the people is important too. Can you see faces well enough to compare to other pictures you might have? Do you see resemblances among the family members? Are they infants or children? Is there a relative who might have been a child and could help you identify the family members? What story can you tell based on the photograph?
List of attendees: Don’t be surprised if you find a list of names for your family reunion with their home next to it. Families had to have a way to organize these reunions. My aunt just found notes in my grandpa’s handwriting from 2 years of family reunions. Grandpa was the secretary and marked down who attended and who had paid their money. This was a great find and helped me find missing family members, but also it gave me something to consider when I saw who made the effort to attend.
Newspaper articles: Local newspapers often offered quips of who attended local family reunions and where the family members came from. This is worth taking a look at local papers where your families might have lived.
Autograph books: I love to look at old autograph books. I don’t know if the autographs were obtained at a family reunion, but I do know that many are dated the same day which indicates some kind of family event.
Letters/diaries: Did your ancestors leave behind letters where they talked about coming home for events or inviting others to come to reunions? Letters and diaries might have indicators of family events.
Our ancestors might not have some of the technology we have today that we will leave behind. But they did have photographs, notes, newspaper articles, autograph books, letters and diaries. Have fun searching for clues to your ancestors’ family reunions.
Kim has a passion for Genealogy. After retiring from a career as a teacher, administrator and education consultant, she spent the past several years doing extensive family research. She is a newsletter editor for the Illinois State Genealogical Society and the Peoria County Genealogy Society. Kim is also a member of the Peoria Chapter of DAR Daughter of American Revolution and a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.