19/11/2013 09:03 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Genealogy and Family Gatherings: Make the Most of Them with Genealogy Secret Weapons

Genealogy and Family Gatherings: Make the Most of Them with Genealogy Secret Weapons


As a genealogist, I have always loved family gatherings and I expect I that will never change. I thought they were wonderful when I was a youngster as they afforded great fun with my cousins. As I got older I enjoyed them for the opportunities they gave me to visit with loads of Aunts and Uncles too, especially when I graduated to the 'Adult Table' at these family festivities. Then I was really blessed when I married a wonderful Italian woman who also found great joy in hosting family get-togethers and likewise to inherit new in-laws who, as so many big Italian families do, love almost any reason to call family together.

Now some years later as a genealogical historian, father, and grandfather, I really love family gatherings all the more. Not only for the family time and memories, but also for the exceptional opportunity they afford to enhance what I like to call 'the tapestry of our family history'. No matter when or where I am, our genealogy and family tree is never far from my mind.

I never let a gathering go by without deploying one of my secret genealogy weapons. These secret weapons are actually not weapons at all, but they are games that are thinly disguised ways for me to gather family memories, thoughts, stories, etc. while everyone is together. Plus they offer a chance for a little bit of fun and a break, usually between our meal and dessert. I have often been heard to say 'If you want dessert, you have to play the game!'


I suggest that if you are a fan of your family's history and genealogy, then you, too, should not miss the opportunity that family gatherings offer for you to gain some valuable insights and information for your family tree.

My games are short, easy, can be played by everyone no matter what their age and relationship. Often they ask just one question, which is the same for everyone. Then the master of ceremonies, usually me, reads the answers aloud and everyone gets to guess who it was that gave that answer.

For example, one summer vacation I asked 'What is your favorite memory of this gathering place?'

At another gathering I asked "What is your favorite memory of this holiday?'

Everyone enjoys the exchange, the game is simple and nonthreatening since there are not right or wrong answers and in each and every case everyone asks if I will write up the responses and send them out to everyone. That is when the genealogist in me chuckles, says 'Absolutely!' and then to myself I add 'I was going to do that anyway since I'll be adding your responses to each of your profiles on our family tree.'

Next week, here in the States, it will be Thanksgivukkah. It is my favorite holiday of the year. Noncommercial, focused on family and food and I'll let you in on a little secret: This year I have two games we will play! One will be a round-robin song and one will be our typical question, but I am going to enhance it into three parts. Hey, after all I am a genealogist and how can I not do everything I can to eek out every bit of family information I can? If you want to get some specifics just comment here and I can email you my forms and questions.

Mission accomplished! Everyone has a good time playing the game, everyone gets a break in the meal, and I gather some lovely stories and memories for our family tree without quite seeming like the crazed genealogy nut I am.


So I suggest you start planning! There is still lots of time before Christmas. Get your games in gear and take full genealogy-advantage of your family gatherings.