This photo of members of the Dixon family on the Basin Reserve in Wellington was taken during their family reunion. First, they did a great deal of research. The more in-depth the research the better, as it offers a way of connecting emotionally with people in history and of deepening your understanding of why history is important. It's a case of
Seeing the world in a grain of sand
Your forebear ran a brewery? Where? Was it an early one? Was beer popular? Did all classes drink it? Were there many pubs in the area?
Through family reunions, participants can discover a sense of continuity, not only with forebears in their direct line of descent, but also with the times their people lived in. There's a geographical component too: participants often make connections with co-descendents right across the world.
The research preceding a family reunion has to be painstaking. It's time-consuming and will probably extend over several countries. The more family members involved, the better!I asked Judy Kirby and Lynley Alpe about the personal rewards of organizing the Dixon family reunion.
Secrets of Success
ResearchThrough their membership of the Genealogical Society two members of the Dixon family who were researching their family history got in touch with one another and collaborated on the research. One of them put a notice in The Genealogist asking descendants to contact her, and discovered another family member who had done a great deal of research. A fourth family member joined the endeavour and gradually the number of contacts grew. A researcher in Sheffield, where the Dixons originally came from, took up the cause. Interest in the research was so great that ‘it seemed the next step was to have a family reunion’. A letter was sent to canvas support for the idea and the response was so enthusiastic that members decided to go ‘full steam ahead’.
NetworkingA newsletter was started, (about 2 ½ years before the reunion finally took place) and donations were requested in the first issue. The generous response enabled the newsletters to become a regular occurrence, keeping members in touch with progress.
CommitteeA committee of 13 was formed. The meetings began as 4-monthly events but increased in frequency as D-day drew near. ‘Everyone on the committee was really enthusiastic and wanted it to be a success… We made every meeting a ball. Even putting together the registration packs, we laughed and joked and had a brilliant time. The visits to the cemetery were hilarious, we felt almost privileged to be doing the job.’
Division of LabourJobs were divided up amongst the committee. In addition to the usual work of chair, secretary and treasurer, other work included: research, newsletter, notes for the bus tour, Family Group sheets, wall charts, registrations, organising the cricket match and bus tour, assisting with the cricket match and refreshments, organising the trip to the Wairarapa, backdrops and large banner, displays, catering, hall co-ordinator, registration and information packs, reunion book, church service and choir. Rosettes with name tags: each family had a different colour to indicate which descent line they came from. An Auckland member who was not on the committee prepared the talk on Founding Families.
Extra HelpersMaster of Ceremonies, photographer, someone for the flowers, cricket umpires and helping with the children. Some non-descendant genealogists worked full-time on the registration desk, handing out souvenir pens and coasters, taking book orders. ‘They were essential in allowing the committee members to enjoy themselves… We were still busy but we didn’t have to worry about anything.’
Honour your AdminThe committee paid careful attention to administration. Members designed a registration form that included the attendee’s descent line. All the information from the forms was computerized, yielding continual updates of numbers planning to come and which activities they wanted to attend, etc. It also gave information on the different age groups, number of children attending and their ages. ‘That form worked brilliantly’. The financial costs were also carefully assessed and monitored. The reunion covered all its costs with some funds remaining. A picket fencepost was recently donated to the Basin Reserve (in honour of the Dixon's cricket association) out of the proceeds.
Quotes within "Secrets of Success" are from Judy and Lynley