Family reunions have been mostly canceled for 2020 as the pandemic continues.
Since you can’t gather in person, why not try an heirloom reunion? It’s a great way to get to know more about family history. You’ll need a coordinator to gather the information from family members and send the emails. Once a month or so, send information about an heirloom, its history and who has it now.
Family members may not know that Uncle Charles has the Miller family Bible. Or that Great-Grandpa Wilson was a policeman in the 1920s, and Uncle Jerry has his hat and notebooks. Or that Aunt Sarah has the bride and groom used on her grandparents' wedding cake in 1949. Who has Grandmother Dixon’s portrait and the china that belonged to them when she married Granddaddy?
Pictures are great conversation starters. Don’t forget to include how the ancestor fits in the family tree. Heirlooms will make a great program for in-person reunions when they resume. This can also be a way to perhaps nudge some younger family members to come forward to handle future reunions. The heirloom reunion does not have to be tied to a real reunion. I have done some of this with my first cousins and their descendants. We learned that one cousin had our grandmother’s wedding ring from 1919 and passed it on to another cousin. After 50 years of researching our genealogy, I had no idea the ring existed. This reunion idea is from John and Susan Sloan, who have used it at the Sloan Family Reunion.
Facebook and genealogy
Social media can be a big help in breaking down brick walls. Facebook, for example, has “groups” for just about everything, including genealogy. Every state has a genealogy network group, as do many counties and regions. Surname groups are a must. Don’t forget groups specializing in local history, like Currahee Memories (Toccoa area). These may not cover genealogy specifically, but history but can provide important context.
The National Genealogical Society and the Federation of Genealogical Societies merged on October 1. For more information, see ngsgenealogy.org. The combined society offers a number of educational programs.
Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O. Box 901, Decatur, Ga., 30031 or kenthomasongenealogy.com.