Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Family reunions, a resource for strengthening families

Family cookout. Submitted by Antoinette Harrell.
Family reunions, a resource for strengthening families
By Anoinette Harrell, Genealogist

We have always had family reunions.  Every Sunday the family, aunts, uncles, and cousins, would come together for dinner.  They would talk about how to help family members who were sick, plan activities, or divide up work that needed to be done on the farm.  Lately, we are only getting together once or twice a year.

I remember every Sunday thirty or forty first cousins used to all get together.  Chicken were killed and prepared.  Pies and cakes were baked.  They would sit on the porch and visit with each other.  This is what I refer to when I say that it is the past that shapes the present and the present that shapes the future.  We come together to honor our ancestors, spend time with those who are here with us, and build a future for the rising generations.

Family members have moved away in search of jobs that have taken them all over the United States.  At one time receiving a long distance phone call was a big thing in the family.  Everyone would gather around the phone waiting to speak to the family member on the phone. Now  internet technology has brought us closer.

Those who passed away in our time become ancestors.  They were in their forties and fifties, and we thought they were old.  Now we are the elders, and our children are looking to us to guide them. Family reunions should have a council of elders to mandate family matters and family business.
Family Reunion. Submitted by Antoinette Harrell.

Family reunions could become a business.  A reunion is a perfect place where dues can be paid and funds generated for committees to carry out family business such as:

  • scholarship committee
  • cemetery committee
  • elderly care committee: Instead of putting family members in nursing homes, someone always took care of family.  Perhaps they need help paying for medicine or need a place to stay.
An education committee could assist family members with applying for grants, preparing for college, or resume writing.  They also could offer internships. When we work to empower our families, that's freedom.  We need to recreate the village. A lot can come from family reunions.  The family can plan community service activities, visit historical sites, restore a cemetery, set up a community resource center, support family members as they serve on a foreign mission.

The family was always the primary source of support for extended family members.  My mother, Isabel  Harrell Cook, had a cousin who had special needs.  Mandy Wheat's daughter took him in. That was just the way they did it.  It was not always about the money back then because they had so little.

They bartered, and they used money mostly for the things they could not barter.  For example my mother, Isabel Harrell Cook, allowed Henry Wheat to put his cows in the family pasture.  In return, he shared fresh vegetables, and when he slaughtered a cow, he shared portions of meat with her.

Each segment of the reunion is fun, but equally or more important are those things that would empower the family and build a stronger family community. When you empower a family, you can definitely build a stronger community.

Our families are rich with talented young people.  We have doctors, nurses, educators, business owners, farmers, and much more.  Having a family business directory makes available resources that will inspire family members to patronize each others services.  This is what economic freedom is all about.

One mistake we as genealogists make is that we do not live in the present in the family.  We are too busy researching the past and do not spend enough time with family members who are living in our time. We are looking for yesterday's information and not collecting enough of today's information right around us.  We pass up opportunities to connect and preserve today's information.

Children need to connect to their grandparents to learn more about the generation before them that in time they are connected to someone that they know.  When they become older, they will have greater interest to learn more about  family.  They will eventually desire to learn more about the people who were important to their grandparents.  They will then search out the generations that came before namely, great grandparents.

Map of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, United St...Image via Wikipedia
This year, I created the Facebook page, African Americans of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, to capture the attention of the younger family members.  I already have over 125 family members who have liked the page.  We are developing an online family community.  This is what the Nurturing Our Roots internet radio and television shows are all about.

FB page, African Americans of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana
More family history seminars and workshops should be planned for family reunions. We could incorporate activities such as:

  • Oral history stations
  • Family research and artifacts displays
  • Tours to historical family sites
I think a good family reunion should be planned two years in advance so that people can organize themselves.  "It is important to choose the homestead as the site for the family reunion.  If there is any land left, visiting the site can reinforce the emotional ties to the home and the land. Without an emotional tie to the land or home, the ties to the family weaken,"  said Robin Foster.

Its the ties that bind us.  The reunion is the opportunity to form a greater network.  We need to use more wisely the resources in that network. That network forms a larger and stronger community.  Tune in to our weekly broadcast of Nurturing Our Roots internet radio, Sundays at 7pm Central and 8pm Eastern, Tuesdays at 8pm Central and 9pm Eastern, Wednesdays at 8pm Central and 9pm Eastern.
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  1. Hello Robin,

    You said, "One mistake we as genealogists make is that we do not live in the present in the family. We are too busy researching the past and do not spend enough time with family members who are living in our time."

    That is so true! When we say to get going in Genealogy, that means start with yourself. Hence, there is a lot of information - in the present in the family - that one should be gathering and notating in their research.

    For the serious family historian or genealogist, don't blow the opportunity afforded by the family reunion.

    Peace & Blessings,
    "Guided by the Ancestors"

  2. I see your heart is beating for poor, these videos should be shared with facebook, at least few can help them..bose
    Resume Formats

  3. Thank you George and Chandra! I follow Antoinette on Facebook which is where she last posted these two videos. I admire her use of the community page to create an online community for her family. That will generate more excitement about their family reunion net year.


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