Family History Reunion–Pioneer Trek

Pioneer Trek Reunion

Another time when it was my turn, we went up Huntington Canyon and reenacted a mini pioneer trek. We used ancestor stories and planned around that. Each person was given a pioneer bonnet or a cowboy hat. One of our ancestors headed to Oregon for the gold fields. They stopped in Salt Lake for supplies and he joined the Mormon Church. So we salted the creek with some gold marbles for the kids to find as we began our trek (they could each pick up four gold nuggets), telling them the story of William Morley Black. The family was divided into families with a “Ma and Pa” for each family. Each family had a little wagon or a wheel barrow to use as their handcart. Each person brought a bedroll (to eat their lunch on) and a large squirt gun or super soaker (for the buffalo hunt) and put them in the handcart.

Family Reunion--Hawkins Pioneer Trek1
Top Row: L-Panning for gold; C-On the trail; R-A pioneer ancestor visits us and tells her story. Middle Row:-Crossing a stream. Bottom Row: L-Guns read for the buffalo hunt; C-The hunt; R-The Trading Post.

Toward the end, some anonymous person handed each family a note that told of a challenge for their family such as one of their children broke his leg. They had to figure how to best help him. The trail crossed a small stream two times, and the leaders had to figure out the best place to across. Everyone made a stop to eat their lunch (cheese stick, jerky, and an apple). We had one of our pioneer ancestor–Ann Jewell Rowley appear to us and tell her stories of faith. The dads and grandpas acted as the buffalo and had a cardboard buffalo head as a shield. The kids had the most fun with this activity. At the end of the trek, they could spend their gold at the trading post. After the trek was over, the kids gathered around an aunt who helped them make a pioneer craft. Each family was given a small book that told the stories of their pioneer ancestors, to take home. We ate chili and scones for late lunch. The there was free time for kids and visiting time for adults.

Destinations: Lake Powell by Houseboat

Lake Powell Houseboats  

Mom and Dad had written home while they were on their mission and gave instructions for us to rent two 50′ houseboats at Lake Powell for a four days. (They paid for the houseboats.) So we had made reservations months in advance and they were home before we went on the trip.

We all had a ball there on the water! Most of us slept on top of the boats because the weather there in the summer is so hot that not enough air moves through the boat. In those days they weren’t air conditioned. But sleeping under the stars was wonderful! The meals were divided up between each of us so that we had a meal or two to fix and cleanup, and then we were free until it was our turn again. We floated for miles on the lake and pulled over to fix meals, go hiking, swim in the water, and sleep. We found wonderful places to anchor the boats at night. The kid wore life jackets when they were on the front or back of the boat or in the water. That was about the only rule. We all had a great time.

Lake Powell

Our dad/uncle had worked in Glen Canyon before it was a lake, and knew every canyon. He was a friend to Jim Mike, the Native American who showed white people the Rainbow Bridge in 1909, so we hiked up to see that amazing landmark! And our ancestors had been part of the Hole in the Rock mission, so we hiked up to the top of that crack in the rock walls. We had Family Night every night! The kids sang that silly song about Grandpa’s Whiskers to Grandpa Loren and he laughed until he cried. Fun times!

We didn’t repeat the Lake Powell Destination as a family because not everyone loves the water, and my brother got a rash from the decayed vegetation that lasted a long time. It’s also very expensive. To rent a small houseboat in the spring for 3 days is $3,000. Summer is much more.  Here is another link–check here). My husband and I rented houseboats with some friends every year for 10 years because we loved it so much.

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.
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      “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.
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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.