Family Gatherings

By Jolenta Fischer Masterson, Sequim, Washington (

If you talked about doing it, the time to start is now! That way you can get your first mailing out with your Christmas greeting. I am going to assume your are going to do a lot of your work on the computer. It was a true joy for me to do this.

Get all your addresses and phone numbers and e-mail addresses into a file. Ask other family members to contribute to this file. A very simple one page news letter can be your first mailing. You should ask for suggestions about the time and place that might please most of your families. You might ask if they would come to such a meeting. We sent the message by e-mail to those on line and then a printout of the same message went to those not on line, so everyone got the same message.

The family living nearest to where you will gather can best select and reserve a meeting place. Small towns are the best! Contact a local motel to reserve a block of rooms, and a list of rates, with phone number to reserve rooms. Listing nearby camp grounds and RV parks is helpful. This information goes into the 2nd newsletter.

Often there are local church or service groups that will cater breakfast and dinner. You could also arrange an evening banquet with German foods served. Have the talented members of your family provide entertainment, skits, or sing-a-longs. At coffee break time, a selection of home baked or purchased Kuchen or other favorite family goodies can be provided by various members of the clan.

In the second newsletter, you create a form asking how many for dinner, how many for breakfast and include what the cost would be. For this we sold tickets at the time that folks 'checked in'. At 'check in' we also gave them a schedule {the third newsletter} and some sort of badge or name tag. Each family signs in with home address and receives a family group sheet to fill out. Delegate some one to help the folks fill these out and keep track of this valuable information. You will now have a fresh new list of correct names, dates etc.!

It is important to check in everyone with name, address, children and what family branch they belong to. Each family branch was given a different color on their name tags. The check-in table is a great area to handle the sale of any prepared family histories, copies of old photos, give away various handouts, have available sign-up sheets for any additional needed volunteers, and handle the money for any non pre-registered guests.

One family can make up the 'check in' packets. It should include name tags, a family group sheet asking all information that you want, a map of the area and whatever you feel is needed, and your 3rd newsletter, giving the schedule of what is going on and where, and any other announcements. Leave room for 'Maistuub' on the schedule. The schedule will assume you have two days.

The Chamber of Commerce in the town where the reunion is held may also provide the reunion planners with items for the 'check in' packets. They could also provide information on area museums, picnic or recreational areas, church or cemetery sites that might be meaningful to your family.

Because not all who come are equally enthusiastic about this sort of thing, provide for alternative entertainment, like a ballgame or golf tournament. Don't forget something special for the kids! An ice cream social in the afternoon is nice.

Encourage all families to set up a board or display of their family! Encourage all to bring photos and documents for others to copy. Provide a copy machine! We rented one locally and provided paper. Ask the genealogist among you to put up a version of the Family Tree, and be on hand to do some explaining. This is the time to bring your files up to date to include the newest members.

Photographer! Arrange for a professional photographer to be there on the first full day of your meeting. Along with the photo of the whole group, different families were photographed. The photographer did not seem to mind that several video cameras were running at the same time. Determine the cost of printing and mailing and collect these orders and the payment for them right then and there. Select who ever is the most efficient at this sort of thing to do that. It works! At that point you have another list of everyone's mailing address and phone number. Make several copies of this list!

If your plans include a Prayer Service or Memorial Service, this is a good time to do it, because everyone still looks good from the photo shoot. At our Memorial Service, the names of our courageous ancestors were recited by a descendant. We sang the hymns that were important to our parents and grandparents.

Now the biggie. The Raffle!! Each family was asked, in the second newsletter, to bring something that could be raffled off. Every family has a talent of some kind. Some paint, some have wonderful woodworking skills, and some do lovely needlework and knitting. There were photographs of ancestors that were laser copied and nicely framed. The items were displayed and tickets were sold. This actually raised enough money for the rental of the hall and enough left over to pay for the copy machine.

Someone in the group must have bookkeeping skills. Find that person. Figure out your costs and immediately pay the bills, and if you run short, pass the hat.

If you choose to have an item such as a T-shirt, hat or pin made up, have these ordered and the money sent in before-hand. Order form with the second newsletter. Again, delegate one person to do this.

The last item was the 'Beer Garden', but you will have to contact me personally for the details on this. ( But most importantly, have a great family time together!

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller