As any guide to genealogy that you find on a book shelf or the web will tell you, the first step to researching your family history is to start with what is known about your ancestors and fill in the missing details. The best way to ensure that you have wrung every last drop of information from your family is to round them up and interrogate them, each and every one. In the past, this was called kidnapping, but today it’s called a family reunion and the rewards you will reap from planning one will be well worth your effort.
Pershing Family Reunion - Library of Congress

Pershing Family Reunion – Library of Congress







If the words “family reunion” conjure up images of crying children, feuding cousins and prickly parents, fear not. With some careful planning and a few tricks up your sleeve, your next family gathering will be a major success.

One of the first (and most important) decisions you’ll have to make is where to hold your reunion. There are several things to consider when choosing the location:

Travel distance

How far will your guests be traveling to attend the event? It is best to choose a place that is central to the majority of relatives. If you are lucky, like me, your family is concentrated in one small area. If they’re scattered far and wide, consider a location that provides the easiest access for the largest number of attendees, or is closest to those that are mobility impaired. If your aunt Agnes doesn’t get around so well, it is a nice gesture to plan a reunion close to her home and leave the traveling to more spritely folks.

Accommodations and Expense

Failing to provide guests with affordable options for where to stay is the biggest blunder that you can make. The fastest way to alienate potential attendees is to pick a posh location with over-the-top amenities and outrageous prices. Try to locate an area that provides multiple rooming options and if possible, find a few family members that have extra rooms in their homes for people who simply cannot afford the hotel high-life. This is especially important for large families who have traveled long distances so aunt Agnes doesn’t have to.

Historical Significance 

Perhaps your great-grandfather was a mason and helped build the train depot, or your grandmother was a school teacher in the one room schoolhouse – incorporating historical sites that are significant to your family’s heritage creates a perfect backdrop to your event. If it is a historically significant venue you may be able to rent the space to have your gathering there, otherwise, consider researching the building’s history and giving a guided tour.


If your reunion will include children (and it almost certainly will), try to plan for some outdoor space where children can safely play. Parks with playgrounds make particularly suitable gathering places and many have buildings with dining tables and chairs that can be rented for a minimal fee. If you live somewhere in the warm and sunny south, the time of year is less important, but if you are north of the Mason-Dixon, like my family, planning your reunion in the Summer is the best bet. In any case, take into account the types of activities available and the projected seasonal temperature when picking your location and date and make sure attendees know what to expect.


Fried chicken, potato salad and corn on the cob are traditional favorites. Food doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be stress-free. If your budget allows, having a simple catered event is by far the easiest option, if not, consider a potluck or bbq with kid friendly foods like hotdogs. If there is a recipe that has been in your family for years, like Agnes’ famous apple pandowdy, be sure to include it. If you are having a picnic or potluck be certain that the space you choose has a place to sit, grills or stovetops (if serving hot food), and refrigeration.

By carefully considering and researching these various options, you’ll be sure to pick a location that gives your reunion the best chance of success.
Stay tuned for more posts on planning a successful family reunion. Next time, we’ll talk about themes, invitations and reunion websites.

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