Planning–How to Get People to Come


Lots of websites with invitation ideas. Use a photo of your ancestor that you are honoring. This invitation is found on

The number ONE RULE to get people to come is  ADVERTISING!



  • LOTS ADVERTISING and REMINDERS which requires 
  • ITINERARY. You can’t advertise if you don’t know what you are doing.
  • USE EMAIL, FACEBOOK, TEXTS , or send out invitations and follow-up with emails and text reminders.

B-FOCUS ON THE YOUNG for activities!

  • Plan for the Majority:  You want to focus on the young–Young adults, teenagers, older kids to young parents. Parents will more easily be persuaded to come if their children will enjoy it.We always tried to get something that most people would want to do and could do.
  • Older People: are usually content staying put and visiting with others.  So if you have a Comfortable “Home Base” there is usually a group who wants to stay behind. (You never want to leave people just waiting for you to come back.) Or have another plan for those who don’t participate in the major activity.
  •  Babies and Toddlers: Often the older grandparents will keep the little ones who can’t participate, or there are some moms that want to stay back with the babies. Plan something that they can do like a craft, or a museum, or a tour–it totally depends on where your reunion is located.

C-Other Tips We’ve Learned About Getting People To Come Long Distances:

1.  Fun Destinationsare a big draw. When people hear the family is getting together at some fun place, they don’t want to be left out. For destinations that have been fun for our family see Destinations.

 2.  “Big Ideas”–Plan something out-of-the-ordinary. Suggestions:

        2-A-Rentals:  Sometimes, to do something out of the ordinary, we have had to rent equipment. You can rent just about anything.

  • Big Blow Up Toys–I know people who have rented the big blow up toys like slides, bounce houses, etc. We have never done  that, so I have no information on them,  but kids love those.
  • Bikes–We once rented bikes for everyone in the family–even the grandma and grandpa and babies. We rented trailers for people with babies. Everyone paid for their own bikes or trailers. See Destination: Seattle
  • Horses– We have rented horses and borrowed horses. This usually works best if you have a variety of activities to choose from, and some ride horses while others may choose swimming, or golfing or whatever works for your group. See Destinations: Blanding, Huntington Lake State Park, Little Creek Cabin.
  • Jet Skis–We only rented a couple and everyone who wanted to ride them took turns. We had a schedule that you could sign up for the time. This was one of those times we had a variety. Some people went on a tour through a coal mine, others went horseback riding. See Destination: Huntington Lake State Park
  • ATVs –We have rented these for everyone, so every four wheeler had two people on it. When you rent these, they come with a helmet, and usually a trailer so you can haul them to the place you need them. You could also rent a few, if you have a base camp, and take turns on these. See Destination: Joe’s Valley, Paiute Trail.
  • Kayaks–We rented some kayaks for one of our family reunions–of the immediate family. Only  9 people wanted to go (we rented 4- two man and 1- one man), and the rest stayed on the beach and played. Kayaks only hold one or two people, so these aren’t necessarily the best for a big group, but tons of fun in with a smaller group and the right area. See Destination: Seattle
  • Rafts and Tubes–We rented rafts and took a guided raft trip down the Green River. Most people went, even 90 year old grandma. Babies couldn’t come. But later we rented rafts and tubes–self guided down the Provo River. See Destination: Provo River.

      2-B– Honor Someone: Celebrate the life of an  Ancestor.

  • Birthdays or other eventsFor instance, we had a family reunion on the 50th anniversary of my dad’s death. It was all about him. People were asked to bring pictures, and/or other items they had that had belonged to my dad. We honored and gave prizes to each person who had the name of Parker (his name). There were two with the first name of Parker–different generations, and one great-granddaughter who had married a man with the middle name of Parker.  People were asked to share memories, and also to tell about the heirloom or photograph they had. Some people that lived hours away had told us they couldn’t make it, but when they found out it was about Grandpa Parker, they came.
  1.       A Grandparent that is still living--Make a big deal about Grandma’s 90th birthday or grandparents’ 60 wedding anniversary, or just make it “All About Grandpa.”
  •  People will usually try harder to come for the grandparent’s sake. We planned an 80th birthday party for Grandpa one year, and people came from Georgia, California, and other states. If planned far enough ahead, people can get days off and cheaper airline tickets.
  • Grandma Nina’s Quilt Show–It was all about Grandma, and we asked people to bring quilts she had made. Most family members know the importance of honoring a grandparent and make more of an effort. See Grandma Nina’s Quilt Show

  • 2-
    1. Highlight an Ancestor
  •  Make it extraordinary weaving an ancestor’s homeland, occupation, hobbies, characteristics into the theme. Use your imagination. Use Pinterest. Don’t be afraid of Excess.
  • One of our ancestors was from England–So here are some ideas that we have done for more than one ancestor, combined in this suggestion–brainstorm with these and come up with your own ideas: See Pioneer Trek, Family History Focused Reunions.

  • Find recipes that are authentic to England and assign them out to people for a dinner.

  • Set the table with English teapots and teacups (You can serve any drink from them.) or see #3.

  • Decorate!! Grandpa ran a tin shop in Salt Lake City after immigrating to there. We found an historic photograph of it from the Utah State Archives/Historical Society. Have a copy place print it large and use it for wall decor, along with anything else that fits with that such as tin plates to eat on; tin buckets with prizes in them. (These would be basics, add excess to these ideas.)

  • Family History fan chart on the wall. Family History pedigree charts laminated for place mats/souvenirs.

  • Grandpa was sued in court by his first wife. That account was found in a newspaper, and presented as a reader’s theater. Any story could be acted out in a skit. OR Have someone with an English accent tell his story in first person and costume or some other drama.

    Horseback riding and/or horse and wagon rides to experience his mode of travel.

  • I assigned one of my nieces to make little booklets with his story in them that and pass them out so they can be read to children over so they remember that ancestor.

  • Copy photos of him and any histories–check out or search state archives for photos and histories, then make copies and pass them out at the reunion.

  • Ask people to dress in period costume for the era that he lived.


3–Choose a Place that has Family Connections–Reunion in a town or place that has family meaning, often draws people from all over, such as:

  •  A Home Town Tour–My husband’s family is from Georgia. We planned two years ahead. Everyone wanted to see Georgia.
  • We also set a reunion in our old hometown, Tooele. Destinations that involve ancestor pioneers will often draw people out, as well.  Family members have usually heard some stories about these places and want to see them.
  • We planned a camping trip to the Hole-in-the-Rock Trailmy great-grandfather had been part of that mission, so we wanted to explore where he had gone, and study what the group had experienced.
  • We re-enacted a mini Pioneer Trek. See Destinations: Blanding, Georgia, Tooele. See Pioneer Trek, Hole in the Rock Trail.

4—-Have a Reunion with a Fun Theme--such as Circus, Animals, Time Period, Pirates, etc. Planning ahead is important for this idea. With enough time, people can get costumes for the theme. (We have a costume rental place near where I live called “Doll’s Costumes.” She has everything and rents them cheap. Check your local places or come to Emery County!

  • My mom rented an Old Mansion in the Avenues for an evening. We had dinner there, and she wanted us to dress in late 1800s costumes. She wanted a cultured musical program, such a classic piano music, clarinet duet, classical songs sung by the trained voices in our family. We ate on china and crystal (the adults. I think the kids had paper and ate at a different table). It was a very elegant experience. Even the little kids loved it.
  • It would be  fun to do it in an Austenland– Jane Austen time period.
  • We had a Medieval Times reunion last year. That was the theme of Grandma Dottie’s Camp, and everyone participated. See Medieval Times Camp. Also see Pioneer Camp.
  • We have had two family “Murder Mystery Dinners.” They can include up to 20 people. We held them as dinner parties, but they could be a fun evening activity during a reunion, after little ones are in bed. You can buy these games or find them online. We did one that was a 50′s High School Reunion and one on a train in France. You receive an invitation which tells you who your character is and describes what she/he would wear. Everyone shows up dressed up as their character. Pieces of the story are handed out, and what each person’s role is in that part, and it is all ad-lib from there. There are some local trains-in many areas–that feature these. Reservations are made ahead, and they send out the invitations, etc. There is also a bed and breakfast in Manti that does these, so I’m sure there are many other places that could be found online.

Grandma Nina Reunion

We didn’t plan very much of this reunion, but there were some great ideas here! Grandma Nina was asked to do a quilt show in one of the big rooms at the care center she lived in. They were having a Family Festival Day for all the families of the residents. Nina was one of the founding members of the Utah Quilt Guild in the 1970s. She had quilted all of her life, and when she moved to Salt Lake City, she found the art had just about died out. So she started teaching classes in LDS Relief Societies; she taught at YWCA for years, and made and sold quilts at Mormon Handicraft and started teaching  classes ther, and continued for 25 years. She had done many quilt shows in her life, but she could no longer get one together. So we set gathered some of her quilts from all over the family, and set the display up in the big room where Grandma sat in her wheel chair answering questions and talking to people.

Nina's Quilt Show1

Her family gathered together and enjoyed a reunion in honor of her!

Outside they had some really fun activities like a Goldfish Race. You caught a goldfish from a container, with a net, and put it in one of the two rain gutters set up with water in them. The person who chose the fish blows on the water to make enough current to get the fish swimming in the right direction. It was very funny!

Nina's Quilt Show


They had wagon rides, face painting, balloons, mini pie eating contest–that is a not a mini contest, but a contest to see how many mini pies you could eat. They were all cream pies and very yummy. They also served lunch with salads, baked beans, and smoked pork sandwiches from a barbecue smoker.

Nina's Quilt Show2

First three pictures beginning at the top are pie eating contest. Center photo is Grandma Nina being pushed around by a great-grandson as she explains her quilts to people. Treats in bowls made to look like fish bowls. They had Swedish Fish, and Gold Fish Crackers, and other fish shaped snacks.


Grandma Nina was 93 years old. She was amazed at all the quilts that were there, and couldn’t remember some of them, but was very impressed with them. It was a great way to get together, honor her, and show our appreciation for all of her talent and generosity through the years.

Family Reunion Games and Activities

Games, also see Family History Focused Fun for games

Old Fashioned Games are still some of the most fun to play. Our daughter-in-law planned a family reunion with an afternoon at a park playing  many of these old games. It was fun for everyone–old and young! It can be used for family-history themed reunions as well.


What games did our grandparents play?

Click on the names to go to websites with rules for old games.

Red Rover

Anti I Over

Three-legged Race

Gunny-sack Race

Kick the Can

Capture the Flag

Eat Donuts off a String

Guess Who? We had square pieces of paper for everyone to write something about themselves that most people don’t know. They all go into a jar, and the M. C. reads them out and everyone tries to guess who that is. For instance someone wrote that she loved to dance and would lock herself in her room, turn the music up, and dance. Most people were guessing teenagers, but it was not a teenager. Someone wrote that a helicopter had landed in her front yard, etc.

About You   (These questions start conversations as other people remember something that is relative, so the point is not to get to everyone, but to engage everyone in conversation and reminiscing)

Have questions in a bowl for people to draw from. Each person answers the question, such as  Which sibling were you closest to and why? What chores did you do when you lived at home? What was your favorite piece of clothing you had as a child? What store did you shop in the most when you were young? Who was a neighbor you didn’t like and why? What was the best advice your dad gave you? What activity did you like to do the most when you were young? Where did your dad or mom work? Did you go to work with them ever? Where was your room located in the house, describe it. Where was your favorite place to play? Sing a childhood song you knew back then. What do you remember about Grandma (or Grandpa, or Aunt? Uncle? ) What was your favorite treat as a kid?

Did You Know?

Have a box with pieces of paper, and invite all the guests to write a little known fact or story about the family–anonymously.


The host of the game reads something about an ancestor and asks everyone there to admit it, if they have done the same thing. This one can be used as a fund raiser. If you have done the same thing as Grandpa, Grandma, or some Aunt or Uncle, you put a quarter in the pot. Such as, ” Grandpa used to drink beer. If you have ever drunk beer, put a quarter in the pot.” Grandma one stole a piece of chalk from her teacher. If you have ever stolen anything…” Grandpa loved to drag State Street in his souped up car. If you have ever had a “souped up” car or drug State Street…” Grandma used to die her hair,  if you have…” Grandpa started fights at school. If you have ever been in a fist fight…” Grandma never would miss an episode of her soap opera. If you have ever watched soap operas…” Grandpa used to swear…” Aunt Lizzy could never keep a secret, if you have blurted out something you shouldn’t have…”

(This one could also be played with a basket of candy–if they had similar experiences to Grandpa…take a piece of candy.)

Who Am I?

Have names of family members on sticky notes, stick one of the names on a person’s forehead. He has to go around asking yes or no questions about who he is, such as “Am I male?”  ”Am I young? ”  ”Am I a farmer?”  ”Do I make delicious bread?” “Did I live in Oregon?” He can’t ask the same person more than once, so everyone has to mix and mingle. If children are playing this game, then you could use the names of people at the reunion–just cousins and aunts and people they know.

Name This Baby

Gather baby pictures of all those attending. Place them on a wall or board with numbers on each one. Each guest gets a paper with the list of all attendees (whose pictures you have), and places the corresponding number of baby picture with the name. If it is an extended family, then have everyone gets to play. If it is the more immediate family, then maybe just the kids should guess.

Who does this baby belong to?

In an extended family reunion we had all the mothers with babies –up to two years old  stand in a row holding someone else’s baby. Guests had to guess which baby belonged to which mother. This was really fun because some babies look just like their mothers, and others look nothing like their mother. We had a blond, blue-eyed mother with a dark haired, brown eyed baby that a stranger would never have guess belonged to her.  But that baby looked a lot like others in the family. It’s a fun way to look at family resemblance.

Team Building Games

We have played team building games like they do at business retreats, and they work really well at family reunions, and they can be hilarious. I can’t remember the rules to them, so look online. There are tons of them. Here is one website: Team Builders 

Herding Pigs

We played this team game at our Cowboy and Outlaw themed Reunion. You blow up pink balloons and let the kids draw faces on them. Then you have an area that is enclosed on three sides to act as the corral. Each team takes turns herding the pigs into a corral with flyswatters. This is a lot of fun because balloons are as hard to herd as pigs would be. It can be done at the same time, if you have two “corrals” or one team at a time with a stop watch. There are lessons that can be applied to this activity such as being unwilling to follow the crowd, if that is a teaching that is needed, or it can be of following rules for safety and happiness reasons.  I try to adapt games to a lesson when I have the kids around.


Charades is a classic game that most people really like to play. I have a container that is about the size of two cups filled with Popsicle sticks. I have written a names of movies, books, and songs on each stick. I geared these to children to play charades. They pull out a stick and act it out and have their team guess, as any game of charades is played. The popscicle sticks are a good way of preserving the titles for the next group of kids is ready to play. Kids tend to entertain themselves with this for a long time. It, of course, could be geared for adults as well.


It would be fun to have rotating yard games–three or four games going at once, and every 15 minutes two people from each game rotate to the next game and pick up where the other players were (other players rotate as well), so not every rotates at once, but everyone gets to play with many people.

Croquet, Bad Minton, Volleyball are always fun, but we found two new games last year that our family loves.

Kubb-Viking Bowling

This game is very fun. It is difficult, but a child can do it as well, almost as an adult. My husband made us a set because our family enjoyed playing a borrowed set so much. There are rules online.

We love this game, and we take it with us. We were camping last year at Pete’s Hole, and people who passed would stop their cars and ask what game we were playing. There is a lot of laughing.

Washers –Urban Horseshoes

This is a very fun toss game. There are lots of sites that have the rules online


Self Defense and Safety

It is a great place to talk about self defense to kids as well as adults. There are safety councils in all cities that have people who will come talk about self defense, neighborhood watch, drunk driving, etc. My daughter was the EMT Director in her town for many years, and she brought some of these things to our family reunion. Impaired Driving Goggles were a big hit, as everyone tried to walk a straight line with them on. It is a very effective way to teach about drinking and driving.

Water Slide

My sister set a water slide up at a park in Bountiful with a very steep hill. She bought the visqueen at a home improvement store. They secure it with tent pegs (this time they forgot them and used rocks). There is a water tap close by, and they took a hose to hook up to it. (Their ward had done this for a couple of parties.)

Hawkins water slide1

Everyone  had a ball with this homemade slide. We had dinner lunch before and during the water activity at the pavilion in the park, and watermelon afterward. Awards were given to the kids. Awards can be purchased at thrift stores and painted. Kids love getting an award, even if they have a bowling ball on them and they won the award for bravest slider.

Roller Skating

My mom used to rent a Roller Skating Rink every year the night after Thanksgiving Dinner as an activity to keep us together having fun on that day.

Family Fun--Roller Skating-001






Family Reunion Fund

Fund Raisers:

We have done all of these in the past. The one that was the most fun was bringing heirlooms that people were willing to part with. My sister brought my mom’s recipe box with her recipe cards in it. My daughter was highest bidder and copied off the favorite recipes for anyone who didn’t have them already. She treasures that box, but my sister was having to downsize things in her house and needed it to go to someone who would cherish it.

Silent Auction

Everyone brings something–anything–to sell. People write notes with a bid and name on them. The bids are visible so you know if you need to up your bid. The judge figures them all up and top bidder gets the it. These can be hand me down toys, dishes you don’t need, anything a garage sale might have.

Scherenschnitte by Lelia

Heirloom dishes; a copy of only existing photo of the Old Home Place; a copy of the scherenschnitte profile of Grandma done by her talented friend; photo of Grandfather’s name written in axle-grease on a rock wall on the trail he traveled hauling from the railroad in Price to Vernal, Utah; A color copy of the scherenschnitte (freehand scissor cutouts) scene done by Grandma’s friend

Family Heirloom Sale

This Fund Raiser for Family Reunion Account requires that people bring something from their own cache of family objects to sell with a price already marked on them. While one might have several of Grandma’s Hankies and be willing to sell some to others. It might be a recipe of Grandma’s that you can color copy to get all the stains and handwriting on the recipe. Any extra doilies, or tools, or thread or thimbles. This might be a good time to get Aunt Bess who has all the family pictures to have the family albums copied and make money for the family fund.

Homemade Sale

People bring something they have made, sewn, baked, crafted, carved, stirred, built, or painted to auction off at the Family Reunion. Silent or with an Auctioneer.

Family Reunion Classes

Set Up Some Mini-Classes &

Learn From Each Other

All families have people that are really good at one thing or another. A fun idea is to ask family members in advance to teach a Class Activity and share their talents and break the group into classes. The possibilities are endless–look around your family and figure out who could teach what. After dinner, some could show what they’ve learned, like the dancing, acting, or rhythm, etc.

Here are some of our ideas:

Crafts–Have the crafty cousin bring supplies for a mosaic craft or some other trendy craft that people can sign up to do. This is one of the options my niece is going to have us do at our next reunion.

Family Trip--Provo River

Alisha’s Craft

Here is a craft that looks so perfect for a family reunion! Check it out at Saving with Sarah blog.


Another variation of this is found on Ginger Snaps blogab187fa0761aebb84d36a6d26a5630b4You can order supplies for these pendants at Photo Making Jewelry

Cake Decorating–I have two daughter-in-laws who decorate cakes. Either one could teach marshmallow fondant, or using tips at a family reunion. One year I made cupcakes and frosting ahead of time, and we had “Cupcake Wars” with the family divided into three teams. The cupcake flavors were Applesauce, Red Velvet, Chocolate, made before the event started. Everyone adults and kids participated and had a great time.

Grandma's Camp Wonderland

Quilting–In our family, a good class to teach would be the basics of patchwork. (Sewing machines are portable these days and can be transported to the reunion.) Our daughter learned quilting from her grandmother, and now teaches. Grandma tried to teach all of her granddaughters quilting and held Quilting Camp at her house for a couple of years.

Nina Quilting and Sewing

Grandma Nina was a professional quilter. Top Row L-teaching her granddaughters to put a quilt on frames and tie it. R-The girls finished quilt tops. The rest are Nina Grimes quilts. Bottom R-teaching a granddaughter.

Embroidery–Our  Grandma taught ribbon embroidery and traditional embroidery to one of our daughters. It would be a great class to teach something relating to an ancestor at a family reunions.  Quilting or Embroidery would be a great way to honor her in our family.

Self Defense or Personal Safety–Get some tips from someone in your family that is in law enforcement or has taken these kinds of classes.

Dance –Have the dancer in your family choreograph a simple dance.– Our daughter-in-law taught teenagers and younger kids a Stomp.

Music or Rhythm –Our grandson gave everyone some type of percussion instrument–look around there are all sorts of house hold things that can double as percussion instruments. He started a beat and we all followed it and the person next to him would start with another beat; you could follow or keep the same beat going. The longer it went, the more fun it was!

Act It Out

We’ve done this in so many different ways. You just need a director.

  • I had condensed “Joseph’s Technicolored Dream Coat,” and had some simple costumes for the main characters. We watched parts of the movie, and then rehearsed, giving tips on what their character needed to portray.
Grandma's Camp Wonderland1

All dressed up and ready to play their part. These guys write their own plays.

  • My mother had simple costumes and put together a reader’s theater about a Court Case of Thomas Hawkins–one of our ancestors, and they rehearsed it briefly and and put it on for the crowd.
  • Another time my mother dressed pioneer clothes and did a one woman show of her great-grandmother crossing the plains and mountains with seven children and a handcart. She had collected her history from family members as well as first hand accounts from her grandfather. Everyone loved it and learned so much about this ancestor.

Archery–Have the archer in your family bring some bows, arrows and targets and teach the basics of archery. We bought some inexpensive homemade bows that worked well for little kids, and a couple of adults had their own bows to share.

Grandmas Camp Medeival 2013

This archery event happened at Grandma’s Medieval Camp.

Shooting–Choose someone in your family that can teach gun safety if you are in areas where you can have target practice with guns, or maybe you are close enough to a shooting range. We live in a rural area, so its not hard to set up a shooting range in our 10 acres or go to North Springs Shooting Range near Price, Utah.


Headed out to teach gun safety and target practice at our Cowboy Camp.



Destination: Gooseberry Creek

Gooseberry Creek  Forest Rangers Administration Site

We rented the whole Forest Ranger Administration Site, that is now rented out to groups. It has three sleeping barracks/cabins and one kitchen cabin, a meeting cabin with just chairs in it, and a cabin that is bathroom and showers.

Gooseberry Admin site

I held Cowboy and Outlaw Camp for the kids, so we did lots of activities with that. We divided into two teams and had water guns. One team was the outlaw group, the other were the Sheriff Posse. There are plenty of Hiking Trails.

Cowboys and Outlaws

Top Row shows the big lawn in front of the cabins…Middle Row–They have just discovered gold and are each getting their share allotted out.We herded pigs–the kids drew pig faces on the balloons, and divided into two teams. Each kid had a fly swatter and had to herd them into a corral made of chairs. Balloons are as uncooperative as pigs.

There is the big green area in front for frisbee, etc. It is close to the creek and several lakes and hiking trails.

Grandma's Camp Cowboys and Outlaws1

Top row: Two of my little outlaws–a three year old and five year old. The three year old would not even take his mask off to eat. He stayed in character the whole first day. Middle Row: We are all reading the same book. Our talents show was so cute!

We played games, and read books (we were all reading the same popular book, at the time.)  There is a fire pit with lots of benches around it. We had a talent show near the fire after the sun went down. The kids came up with cute and funny things.

To rent the whole place is $300/night which is a fabulous deal because it has 50 beds. Cabins are rustic with lots of beds in each one. There are three barrack cabins. But plenty of space for tents and trailers. You have to bring your sleeping bags–no bedding.

Family History Focused Reunions


When I was little, I remember our reunions were always at a park. We at lunch and visited, and hugged everyone–even those people I didn’t know. We always brought our own lunch for our family, but there was always sharing. I remember one year, after my mom had married our uncle, we took Kentucky Fried Chicken for our family. It looked like a lot because there were 25 of us, and so Uncle Loren/Dad told everybody to come get some chicken, we had plenty to share…there were lots of takers, so many of our family didn’t get any chicken.


“Come help yourselves, we have buckets full!”

 Many years later, after he had died, my sister emailed everyone on his birthday and said, “I think we should all go buy a bucket of KFC and give it away to someone to remember Dad.” We still have lots of laughs about that memory.

But anyway, I was talking about our old reunions and how we ate lunch, and then after lunch the adults got together and had a “Genealogy Meeting.”They tried to get us kids to come, but I tried it and it was so boring, I went off to tend the little kids on the swings. They were ALWAYS boring unless it was my mom’s turn to host the reunion. She brought out lots of ideas and made it a great time. That is the first I had heard of a  kiddie pool full of sawdust or sand with money in it. All kids loved digging for the money. She was sure there were better ways to teach family history, so I’m going to list things she did, and we have done that I consider fun ways to pass along appreciation for our ancestors.

Her ideas through the years included:


  •  One time beside a bonfire at the end of a full day of activities, she had people dress up in costumes of old, and gave them a script to read as a Reader’s Theater about my great grandfather Thomas Sunderland Hawkins.
  • Grandpa Thomas Hawkins Trial
    • He was a polygamist, and as was tradition, the first wife gave consent for him to marry a second wife, but then she changed her minds. Those who were stirring up trouble over polygamy convinced her to spy on her husband and take him to court, which she did. Outlawing polygamy had not quite happened, so she was convinced to sue him for adultery. The court reporter had a sense of humor and wrote it mostly as a farse, making fun of everyone and everything. My mom had a court stage set up with an attorney,  Thomas Hawkins and his wife Harriet Hawkins on the stand. Each character took turns reading the parts where they were quoted. We thought it was very funny, except my brother who is an attorney; he was disgusted and called it “a travesty of justice”.  I didn’t know anything about this ancestor until this reunion, and I have never forgotten him or how awful that trial must have been for him. He was the first one tried for polygamy, and so the courtroom was filled with spectators, mostly Mormons.
    • download (6)

      “Mormon Troubles–The Trial of Thomas Hawkins” published by “Harper’s Weekly, November 1871.



  • Grandma Ann Jewell Rowley
  • She wrote up a one-woman plays was written from many diaries and bios, and stories that she heard growing up about her great grandmother, Ann Jewell Rowley. She performed it for us all. Everyone who was there loved it, and felt like they knew this ancestor so much better.
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Ann Jewell Rowley


  • Grandma Maggie Rowley
  • She wrote up a story her mother had told her about taking a midwifery class from Dr. Ellis Shipp. Her mother, Maggie and her friend were both expecting babies and promised each other they would deliver the babies with the cleanest, hygienic methods they had just learned. The story goes on to be hilarious as she helps her friend clean and put a stove back together, finishing barely in time to catch the baby with soot all over them and the house. My mother told that story to the reunion of her brothers, sisters, and the next two generations attending. Grandma Maggie ‘s stories were the entertainment for that reunion.
Sam and maggie-001

Margaret Ellen Black Rowley

Games for Family History

CONFESSIONS The host of the game reads something about an ancestor and asks everyone there to admit it, if they have done the same thing. This one can be used as a fund raiser. If you have done the same thing as Grandpa, Grandma, or some Aunt or Uncle, you put a quarter in the pot.  Here are some ideas. Telling the full name of the relative helps people know some details about their ancestors.

  • Uncle Preston used to drink beer. If you have ever drunk beer, put a quarter in the pot.
  • Grandma Sammy  stole a piece of chalk from her teacher. If you have ever stolen anything…
  • Grandpa Dave won trophies at the Drag Races with his ’56 Chevy. If you’ve ever  raced your car, or owned a Chevy…
  • Grandma Ginny used to dye her hair, if you dye your hair…
  • Grandpa Menco started fights at school. If you have ever been in a fist fight…
  • Grandma Nina  never would miss an episode of her soap opera. If you have ever watched soap operas…
  • Grandpa Parker used to swear. If you’ve ever said a swear word…
  •  Aunt Lizzy could never keep a secret, if you have blurted out something you shouldn’t have…
  • Great Grandpa Thomas was the first one tried for polygamy in court in Salt Lake City. If you have ever been to court even as a witness or jury member…
  • Grandpa David had a lead foot. If you’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket…
  • Grandma Maggie Rowley married four times. If you have been married more than once…
  • Great-Great Grandpa James lied under oath in court. If you have ever told a lie…
  • Great Grandpa Sam sued his neighbor over a manure pile. If you’ve ever fought with a neighbor…

(This one could also be played with a basket of candy–if they had similar experiences to Grandpa…take a piece of candy. Or pass out candy to begin with and they have to give it back if they have ever…)


This game is similar to the one listed in Family Fun, but with Family History. To play this, put pictures with names under them on a wall or board, so people can see the names and faces of ancestors. Then the host asks questions such as

1–Who headed for the Gold Fields of Oregon in…?

2–Who was a midwife?

3–Who made kid gloves to earn a living?

4–Who changed his name?

5—Who was sued by his wife for adultery?

6—Who was a freighter–hauled goods in a wagon from the railroad in Price to Vernal?

7—Who came with his mother and siblings with a handcart and later was part of the Hole in the Rock expedition?

8—Who lived in Orderville as one of five wives? And loved her sister wives?

9—Who fed Poncho Villa?

10—Who was a cowboy on one of the largest ranches in Utah?

11—Who spoke perfect Spanish and worked for the American Government in Mexico?

12—Who started their working career in a factory with no marketable skills and within five years became a hospital administrator?

13—Who was secretly baptized in the middle of the night?

14—Who died in Nauvoo as a Martyr for the Church?

15—Who was called with her husband and family to the San Juan Mission (Hole in the Rock)?

16–Who  accompanied Joseph to Carthage Jail? And went to Washington with the Omaha Indians to fight for compensation to them for their stolen lands?

As the questions are answered, point to the person on the wall. You could also print questions and a photo collage as seen below. Everyone can put the number of the question on the person they think it fits. Review  the questions, pointing out the right picture and elaborate a little on the person. Then people have a paper with pictures on it to take notes on and also take home.


Ancestors-Hawkins Historic Photos-001

Ancestor Collage for Who’s Who Game


Each fact will have points beside it, as individuals go through the list, they award themselves points for the matching facts. One with the most points wins a prize.

Suit this to your own ancestor or ancestors

Types of facts could be:

1- Grandma Nina has sewn a million buttons on clothing. If you have sewn a button give yourself 10 points.Pass out a paper that lists things about an ancestor that you are featuring.

2- Nina has put in a thousand zippers, if you are wearing a zipper, add 10 points.

3-Nina is a quilter, she has made a ton of quilts. If you have ever helped make a quilt add 10 points. If you have pieced a quilt add 20 points.

4-Grandma Nina dislikes the color YELLOW. If you are wearing yellow, subtract 10  points.

5-Grandma Nina had twins. If you have ever had twins or are a twin, or have twin grandchildren give yourself 10 points. 6- Grandma worked for a fuse plant during WWII. If you have ever worked for the government give yourself 10 points

7-Grandma owned a bird named PeeWee that would screech whenever anyone visited, so none of us like him. If you have ever owned a bird subtract 10 points.

8-Grandma loved to watch her favorite soap opera. If you ever watched General Hospital subtract 10 points–that was not her show. If you’ve ever watched Days of Our Lives, add 10 points.

9–Grandma did not like pasta. If you love pasta, subtract 10 points.

10-Grandma lived in the same house for 40 years. If you have lived in the same house for over 30 years add 10 points.

11-Grandma made her famous chocolate cake for any family gathering. If you know her secret ingredient, add 10 points.

12-Grandma’s house was painted “easy-on-the-eyes green” inside an outside. If your house has green paint on any wall inside or out, or if green is your favorite color,  add 10 points.

13- Grandma had two hummingbird feeders and she loved watching the birds. If you have a hummingbird feeder add 10 points.

14-Grandma loved her little Chihuahua. If you have an inside dog, add 10 points. If you have or ever had a Chihuahua, add 20 points.

15-Grandma saved everything in case she might need it one day. When she moved out of her house, we had to fill up 2 dumpsters to move her. If you hate throwing anything away, subtract 20 points!


Have pictures of ancestors with names under them cut out, mix them up on a wall or board, and have the kids try to match the great-great-grandmas to the correct g-g-g-grandmas. Then have them put them on the right side of the family– either Grandma’s or Grandpa’s. As they make a match tell something about that couple–where the lived, how many children, some story about them that will make the kids remember them better.


Ancestors-Hawkins Historic Photos

Mothers and Daughters


Match up the fathers–top row to the sons–bottom row. Then match which side they belong on.



Ancestors-Hawkins Historic Photos1HUSBANDS AND WIVES MATCH GAME

Pass out copies of pictures with grandmas and grandpas on it. Each family member needs to match up the couples. As host reads the answers, he should tell something about their story.


Ancestors-Hawkins Historic Photos (2) 


Have baby or young pictures posted of ancestors, along with adult pictures and play the match up baby or young pictures to older person. This is good for kids to play with living grandparents–try to match up the baby picture to people they know.


Ancestors-Hawkins, Alma and Harriet Carleton

Young and Old


Have names of family ancestors on sticky notes, stick one of the names on a person’s forehead. He has to go around asking yes or no questions about who he is, such as “Am I male?”  ”Am I young? ”  ”Am I a farmer?”  ”Do I make delicious bread?” “Did I live in Oregon?” He can’t ask the same person more than once, so everyone has to mix and mingle.

If children are playing this game, then you could use the names of people at the reunion–just cousins and aunts and people they know.


Ask some people ahead of time to think of a funny or important story to tell about the ancestors they remember and interacted with like their parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc. Usually when one tells a story it reminds someone else of a story. These stories are invaluable! Record the whole gab session and type it up as a record. Even folk lore is important to history.