Summer is fast approaching and many of us are making plans to attend one or more family reunions. Maybe it’s a small, informal gathering of adult siblings and their families or maybe it’s a large gathering of the descendants of a common ancestor. I put together a short list of items that as a genealogist/family historian you may want to consider bringing with you to the reunion.
- First and foremost is a good quality camera – I prefer digital, but film works just as well. You’ll need this to take photos of the event as well as the attendees. You can use the macro setting to get close-ups of small artifacts or family heirlooms that might be on display. Depending on the venue, you may want to bring a tripod or monopod. Charge your batteries the day before and bring spares if possible. Also, clear off your memory card or purchase a new one so that you don’t run out of space mid-way through the day.
- Bring pre-printed cards with your name and email (or phone number) to hand out to the relatives you’ll want to stay in contact with. You can buy sheets of blank business cards at an office supply store. Then use a word processor or even a graphics program to design your card and print them at home. You may even want to include the name of the reunion to make it easy for your relatives to remember when and where they got your card.
- If feasible, bring photographs or other artifacts or heirlooms that you own to display and show to your cousins. Use common sense when deciding what to bring. You certainly don’t want valuables or irreplaceable photos to be damaged or stolen. Keep in mind that many reunions are in public parks so be cautious about leaving your belongings unattended.
- If you own a portable scanner, such as a Flip-Pal or a wand scanner, bring it along. You never know what photos, clippings, etc your relatives may bring. If the owner of the item allows it, you might be able to get a better quality copy with the scanner than by taking a photograph – particularly if the lighting is poor. And, of course, don’t forget to bring extra batteries. (See my recent review of the Flip-Pal here.)
- You may also want to consider bringing your genealogy data (or at least a relevant subset). You can use this to compare notes with your relatives as well as to help you identify exactly how you are related to the cousins you meet. Gadgets are great for this. Many smart phones have genealogy apps as do the ipod touch/ipad and android tablets. You could even bring a netbook or small laptop with your data. If you’re not into the electronic gadgets, you could always bring a binder or notebook with hard-copy charts.
- Bring something with which to take notes, jot down emails, phone numbers, etc. You could use a pen and paper for this or use your smart phone/ipod/android/netbook/laptop/etc.
- One additional item I would throw in my bag is a USB thumb drive. I brought one of these with me to a reunion a couple of years ago and a distant cousin was kind enough to copy digital photos of our mutual many times great-grandparents onto it from his laptop. So I got the photos right there on the spot – no waiting for email, etc. In return, I created a gedcom of the relevant part of my family tree and put it on the flash drive so he could copy it onto his computer.