Getting Started on a Family Reunion

Notify the Family

As coordinator of the family reunion, it's up to you to get things rolling by notifying the clan that, "we're all going to get together."

Even if your family is rather small, this will take time. After all, you've probably lost touch with certain relations; we all do. And so, you may discover that you have relatives you've never met whom live two hours away or clear across the country. So give yourself plenty of time to track people down.

Master List

At least six months before you plan to hold the event, begin compiling a master list of the entire family. Any way you choose to go about it is fine: use a computer if you like, or simply a pad and pencil.

Start the list with names and addresses from your own address book. Then, contact each person by phone or mail, asking for the names and locations of any distant relatives they may know of to add to your list.

Remember that the oldest members of the family can be an excellent resource for contacting long-lost relations. Your grandfather, for instance, may recall a "Cousin Trevor" who moved to Los Angeles in the '30s to make his fortune.

For other clues, scout through old family albums, movies, letters, etc. You'll be surprised at what you may come up with: an overlooked cluster of Smiths in Memphis; a great-uncle who's mayor of a small New England town.

Follow up your leads by consulting out-of-town telephone directories in the library, or at the telephone company. If directories are unavailable, simply call directory assistance for listings. If you like, you can even run a "Smith Family Reunion" personal ad in the local papers.

Next, introduce yourself to newly-found relations with a brief note or phone call. Explain that a reunion is in the works, that they'll be receiving an invitation when plans have been finalized, and that you're hoping they can attend. If you're writing, sign off by encouraging them to indicate their interest by responding to you as soon as possible.

Family File

As you progress, your master list is bound to grow and, if your family is large, you may find yourself with enough names to fill a book. Don't be alarmed. You can keep everything under control by creating a family file that will also serve as a handy reference for future reunions.

Compile a database on your computer or use an old-fashioned card file. Include addresses and phone numbers with each name and, if the idea appeals to you, add personal details. For instance, occupation (Jimmy owns a jewelry store); standing in the family (he's your second cousin); special interests (he plays trombone in a Dixieland band), and so on.

In any case, arrange the cards alphabetically and keep them in a box labeled with the family name ("The Smith Family").

Eventually, your master list will be complete, and you'll be well-versed in just who -- and where -- your family is. Just as important, when it's time to type up labels or envelopes for invitations to the reunion, all you'll have to do is refer to the list.