Bringing together all my relatives at a reunion, not just the ones that I already knew but also the relatives that I found while doing research, was so exciting!! It meant asking people to come to a reunion who are connected by a family tree but may or may not know each other. I noticed during my research that when I mentioned the name Kennaley, I received full and undivided attention. It’s one of those names where you say, "Oh, we must be related." So, after much discussion, we decided to organize a family reunion, which ultimately brought together 250 people who were connected to one ancestor: Michael Kennaley (or Kennally).
What’s my secret to arranging our family get-together and getting a strong turnout? Plan, plan, plan!!! As you are researching your family tree (I highly recommend using a software package), you will be collecting family names, photos, and contact information, including mailing addresses and email addresses from every branch of the family. Give yourself plenty of time to get your research accomplished. This might take a year or more to get it to a point where you are ready to share. You can even offer your research in the form of a completed family tree at little or no cost at the reunion.
After completing the research, we created a committee and shared the responsibilities. Don’t go it alone and take help wherever it is offered, from finding the best location to establishing a budget. It’s a lot of work but very satisfying. For instance, my second cousin is an artist. She volunteered to design t-shirts to sell at cost and took orders before the event.
Using your new contacts list, keep in touch using email, selling your idea of a reunion and getting everyone on the guest list excited. Keep everyone informed of the latest happenings. This will help to keep the enthusiasm high and encourage better participation and attendance.
For some additional suggestions, search family reunion planning web sites or try books like Dina Carson’s planning manuals: Reunion Solutions Planner: Organize and Manage Your Reunion with Checklists, Ideas, Budgets and Worksheets or Reunion Solutions: Everything You Need to Plan an Extraordinary Family, Class, Military, Corporate or Association reunion.
Midwest Genealogy Center