Family reunions: Creating connections across generations

Fun ideas for creating memorable family reunions and creating connections across generations.

Joseph Urban, Sr. and Louisa (Patek) Urban on their wedding day, May 3, 1915, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Joseph Urban, Sr. and Louisa (Patek) Urban on their wedding day, May 3, 1915, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Summer time is the perfect time for family reunions and gatherings. Community festivals, rendezvousing at state or county parks or at a family home are all about renewing family connections and creating legacy. This year, my family is celebrating 100 years since my immigrant grandparents settled in central Wisconsin.

Planning the family float for the hometown parade has taken on a life of its own. Cousins are in daily communication, elders are being asked to ride on the float and another cousin is ordering Grandpa’s favorite candy, which will be tossed from the float. Butterscotches were always in his bib overalls, and none of us cared that occasionally the butterscotch candy came with a bit of silage. All of this float building from multiple states has provided chances for lots of reminiscing, stories, sharing of old photographs and so much more!

As we prepared for our 100 year celebration, we created a Facebook family group. By establishing a Facebook family group, it was an efficient and easy way to keep generations connected. The Facebook family group is a space that enables sharing of photographs, recipes, stories, newsy updates and can be a one-stop center when life brings family challenges. Once created, you can decide if it is a closed or public group and how members are added. Online family group pages are a way to link together generations whether they live in Michigan, Alaska or are serving aboard in the military.

At family gatherings or reunions, be intentional in creating sharing opportunities. How exciting to explore, record and document. Best of all, it mixes families up with stories, laughter and memories.

Let’s start with a few reunion games.

  • Fun nametags. Make them bright and bold print with one piece of trivia. Why nametags? Even though you might remember all of your cousin’s kids, aunts and uncles, your relative’s spouses or partners might not. Nametags break down an initial barrier of “just how are we connected?”
  • Story starters. Place a basket of story starters on picnic tables that contain open-ended questions for everyone to share. Think about if you would feel comfortable responding too. You don’t want to have anyone feel on the spot when responding to a story starter. Story starter suggestions could include the following:
    • Tell us about going to first grade. Where did you live? Who were your friends?
    • What is your favorite dinner to enjoy on your birthday? What is your favorite birthday dessert or treat?
    • Growing up, what was your favorite 4-H or other club memories?
    • What do you remember about your grandparents or another significant elder or adult?
    • Today, do you have any pets? Break into pet-talk.
  • Dots on a map of the world or globe. Ask everyone to put dots on where they live or have lived. Look at the migration of families.
  • Extra photos. When the family reunion is announced, ask everyone to bring extra or old photos. Use the photos as table decorations and then invite members to take home the extra pictures. Build on this by having to identify people by baby pictures, etc.
  • Family Bingo. Anything to get people mingling will create energy.

Looking for additional resources? Consider the Michigan State University Extension activity sheet on Family Folklore. Thinking about exploring your roots? There are thousands of genealogy and family history websites.

Whatever and wherever you go this summer for family reunions, take the time to engage, put the cell phone to the side and simply “visit.” By visiting, you will learn about your legacy and others will gain from your life stories.

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