If somehow you could have every one of the relatives on your family tree come back to life for just one day, wouldn’t it be fun to hold a huge family reunion for all of them?
Here are some tips to plan your big event:
Because your tree has hundreds or even thousands of relatives, you are going to need a very large venue, be it a banquet hall or a large outdoor space. Check your ancestry or your familysearch tree and plan accordingly.
You will need to think about food, entertainment, table favors, photography, whether or not to have an open bar and more. Your oldest relatives probably were born in Europe or beyond so you might well have a language problem. Also be aware that everybody will be there including people you never liked. Who knows you may have a bank robber or a horse thief in your midst?
That brings up the seating arrangement: you have many difficult choices here. Would you seat everybody by the year that were born?, or do you just mix it up and have Uncle Louie born in 1934 sit with your great great great aunt Tillie who was born in 1803? It certainly would make for interesting conversations. You might not want put the Germans and the Polish at the same table because they never got along back them.
Consider the wide variety of occupations of your relatives. How interesting would it be to see a politician next to a hairdresser next to a cabinetmaker next to a coal miner.. Picture Albert Johann the harness maker born in 1821 finding something to say to Uncle Bert born 1934 the car salesman still wearing his plaid suit.. Picture Emil the German barrel maker born in 1741 trying to make meaningful conversation with Molly born 1912 the exotic dancer who worked the 1933 worlds fair.
You might think about those young single maidens. Would you place them at tables with young single men or rather have them sit right next to their stern but dearly departed fathers? Language also might be a problem because your older relatives who immigrated from Europe may not speak English therefore seating them next to Uncle Louie from Sioux City might make for a bit of confusion. Make a name tag and a table card for everyone with their city, birth and death date.
Did you decide on an open bar? Sure some of your relatives might well enjoy it but heavy drinking might cause problems later on in the evening.
Please don’t seat relatives who never liked each other together. Certainly you wouldn’t want Uncle Louie and Uncle Ben sitting next to each other lest one takes a swing at the other after a couple drinks. Or what do we do about Uncle Jim who had four wives. Do we seat them all together at one table or do we spread the wives to different tables? Of course, you will have a head table for yourself , your parents and your grandparents. To make sure that everyone has a name tag with their city, birth and death date.
Next you need to think about food. You will need lots of food for your relatives from many different generations, different countries, with different tastes and dietary needs. Plan your food carefully. For instance, great great great grandpa Leander who died in 1864 may not savor Pepperoni pizza or spicy buffalo wings. Jimmy from Arkansas may not like Shepherd’s pie. Buffet style makes the most sense.
After dinner you need to plan entertainment. In order to satisfy many generatuins of relatives, you will need to hire an orchestra that can play a great range of music from Gregorian chants to Lawrence Welk, maybe 23 Skidoo and some Beach Boys, no easy task. If the orchestra starts in with something from the big Bopper, some of your very oldest relatives might just get up and leave in a huff.
You might consider a karaoke session or an open mic where guests can sing or play an instrument.
With all the music we need a very large dance floor. It will be great fun to see who dances with who (and how).
And wouldn’t it be cool to see all your guests dressed as they did in life and back in the day. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Great great grandma Elizabeth born 1888 in bustle sitting next to cousin Wally born 1934 wearing a Hawaiian shirt from his last vacation.
Make sure you hire a good photographer and/or rent one of those photo booths. This is a great chance to get pictures of those that lived before photography.
’Think about door prizes and table favors, a box of Frango mints for everybody, prizes for the oldest relatives in attendance, the person that traveled the farthest, or maybe person died most recently. When choosing door prizes be careful. If your fourth great-grandfather born 1836 should win an iPhone 13 or an air fryer he might be somewhat bewildered. In any case each guest should go “home” with a swag bag. Great great great great grandma Mathilde born 1722 might be confused with a sport bottle or a Fanny pack. Great great great grandpa Ira born 1835 might have a problem with his dozen golf balls and his tie-dye T-shirt with the reunion logo.
Just remember, at the end of the day they can’t take their prizes and swag bag with them anyway.
There are other considerations as well. Because all of your guests are dead and have no money, you will be obligated put them up at a hotel somewhere near banquet hall especially if the reunion runs late. Reserving a large enough block of rooms might be a bit costly. And then getting your relatives from the reunion to the hotel might be a problem. Many of your older relatives will be expecting horse and carriage rather than Uber. Some might more comfortable taking an old red streetcar.
You may want your older relatives will want to take an extra day to sightsee today’s city after the reunion. Most will be amazed and confused seeing modern-day buildings. Uncle Orrin who farmed all his life might discover that his land is now a shopping center.
Well, this crazy reunion thing is just fun to think about. What’s really important is that you remember just how important family is to us all.
This also may serve as a reminder to get back working on your tree. And make sure that you hug the ones that are still with us.
And as always your comments are most welcome. Tell me about a more notable relative that you would like to see at your reunion.