As family historians, we honor our grandparents when we document their stories. Some of us undertake this effort alone, unsure to how to incorporate family members into the process.
In a talk last year, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered a collaborative approach for collecting family stories of all kinds: family tree gatherings.
As the name implies, a family tree gathering is an occasion meant to allow relatives to get together and celebrate their ancestry. These events often coincide with family reunions, birthday celebrations, marriage anniversaries, and other landmark events that bring family together.
That doesn’t mean a family tree gathering has to be a big to-do. On a smaller scale, it might take the form of a special family night. For relatives that can’t together in person, a virtual family tree gathering might work. The most important thing is to have fun while creating bonds with family – those with us today and ancestors from the past.
We asked family historians to share their tips for holding a family tree gathering. Use their recommendations to celebrate the lives of grandparents and other relatives, preserving the memories you make with our family tree app.
Setting Up a Real-World Event
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to get together in person with relatives, here are a few ways to make your family tree gathering a success.
1. Choose the right setting
Many factors will go into choosing where and when the family tree gathering is held. Most important is a central location and timing that will allow the most family members to attend. One way to improve attendance: Have the family tree gathering coincide with another big family event.
If possible, family historian Joshua Taylor recommends, “select a location that has special meaning to the family – someplace that allows your family to ‘step into their past’ a bit. You might visit a location that ancestors frequented, like a local church.”
2. Make everyone welcome!
“Consider opening up the family tree gathering to second and even third cousins whom you haven’t met,” Joshua says. “Be sure there are plenty of ice-breaker activities to help everyone feel at ease, especially if you are inviting newfound family.”
Diane Haddad, Managing Editor of Family Tree Magazine, recommends a unique way to help everyone get their bearings: “One way to identify yourself is to color-code your name tags by generation. “This way,” Diane explains, “your relatives can see instantly how you’re connected to the family.”
3. Use visuals to help tell family stories
Celebrating the lives of grandparents and other relatives is why you’re holding a family tree gathering, but some people may need encouragement to share stories. Incorporating visuals into your family tree gathering can help.
One good place to start: family photos. Rachel LaCour Niesen, founder of Save Family Photos, recommends being thoughtful about how you display photos at family events. For instance, you may want to group photos by theme and pay special attention to being inclusive with selections.
Younger generations may prefer utilizing video and other technology instead. Joshua suggests incorporating video or sharing family photos on a social media site. “That way,” Joshua says, “the family can gather and view images during the event on a platform that is engaging for younger family members.”
Incorporating family heirlooms into the family tree gathering is another way to inspire storytelling. Physical objects can unlock powerful memories about grandparents and other relatives – stories you’ll want to document.