Fun Activities that Focus on Family History
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.
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.
- 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 that would be a story of some ancestors. It would be acted out for us.
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.
Grandpa Thomas Hawkins Trial
- Another ancestor was the court record of our great grandfather’s trial for adultery. 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 convinced her to spy on her husband and take him to court, which she did. The court reporter had a sense of humor and wrote it mostly as a farse, mostly making fun of this wife. My mom had a court stage set up with an attorney, Thomas Hawkins and his wife Harriet Hawkins on the stand. 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.
Thomas Sunderland Hawkins
- 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 the house. My mother told that to the reunion of her brothers, sisters, and the next two generations attending. Grandma Maggie ‘s stories were the entertainment for that reunion.
Games for Family History
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.)
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 someone in the family who knows facts about their lives, asks questions such as “Who headed for the Gold Fields of Oregon in…?” ”Who was a midwife?” ”Who owned 25 slaves?” “Who immigrated from Scotland?” “Who made kid gloves to earn a living?” Who changed his name?” “Who had loyalties to the king rather than the colonies in the late 1700s?”
Match Your Experiences to Grandma’s
Pass out a paper that lists things about an ancestor that you are featuring. Each fact will have points beside it, as individuals go through the list, they award themselves points for the matching facts, such as:
1- Grandma Nina has sewn a million buttons on clothing. If you have sewn a button give yourself 10 points.
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, subract 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-grandpas. 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.
Who Am I?
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.
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.
For Family History, have baby pictures posted of ancestor people are familiar with as adults, and play the same game matching up baby photos to the older faces they knew.