Family Searcher: Enjoy your living family members

Nina Brawn, Special to The County
9 years ago

We held our family reunion last week, with a healthy mix of genealogy, fellowship and just plain fun. We tried to make sure everyone immediately signed in and got a nametag with their name and the sibling from whom they descended. We got almost no resistance to the health questions we asked at registration. My sister had created a beautiful and elegant beaded Christmas ornament, which was on display as a door prize for completed registration, and I know this helped, a lot!

At past reunions, we haven’t gotten photo of everyone, so we also required an immediate family photo. We did this with a neutral green background so that we can Photoshop people into other photos; for instance, we are thinking of doing a calendar with a photo of everyone with a birthday that month. We can also Photoshop in the people who attended the reunion but had to leave before we could get 90 people to stand still for one giant group photo. The last part of registration was an optional fingerprint tree. Anyone who wished could add their prints to the tree and sign their print.
We also had a couple drawings for the kids; those under 15 could guess the number of M&M’s in a jar and win them. I also had a deck of family history cards and a $5 bill for the teenager who could answer the question if their card was drawn at lunch. This encouraged them to interact with the older generations, which is not the easiest accomplishment.
After registration, people were free to wander, sit and talk, snack, etc. We had two photo stations set up for fun. One was a simple zebra-print cardboard frame and a pile of silly dress-up clothes, glasses, hats, crowns, etc. Kids of all ages enjoyed dressing up and posing. The other was an 8 x 8 foot cardboard backdrop with holes cut out for faces. It was supposed to be the ship my grandfather came to America on from Italy. There were five portholes on the bottom for children, and three “people” painted “on the deck” to pose with a photo of my grandfather. There were a variety of games for all ages; one of the most popular was the frying pan toss!
For me as the family genealogy nut, the documents and photos we displayed, and those that relatives brought to share was a big highlight, including never before seen photos of my grandmother and her first husband, and a baby photo of my uncle which she signed “my baby boy, Clayton”. There were great nieces and nephews I hadn’t ever met, and other family members not seen for years. Overall, it was a great time for the whole family, a lot of work, but so worth it.
Well, the reunion is over, and it was a blast! Lots of fun, lots of memories, old and new. With its passing, I have also decided to make this column a thing of the past, after about 10 years, the well has dried up and it’s time to let it go. I do so with regrets, of course, but I hope you will still come to me with your questions and hints. It has been great hearing from all of you and I am confident I got more from all of you, than I was ever able to offer. Thank you.
I am only giving up this column, not genealogy and I hope you all will continue to enjoy family history for many years to come. And while genealogy can be a consuming passion, embrace and enjoy your living family members.
Live, laugh, love; and remember I am here if you need me.
    Nina G. Brawn has lived in the Dover-Foxcroft area for over 50 years and currently lives there with her husband Fred. Nina was the last of 10 children, has three children of her own and nine grandchildren. She can be reached online at