Food, Family, and Detectives


Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

Summer is just around the corner and with it comes all of those Family Gatherings. These are great opportunities to fill in some of the blanks in your research. As you make phone calls, send out invitations or e-mails there are some basic instructions or suggestions that you may wish to include.

Arrive at the reunion with a list of question that you would like to have answered. Be prepared to share what you know in order to help others obtain the answers that they are looking for. You might even plan to have a master list of questions so that those who are attending can document and offer information that will help answer the questions. Here is where e-mail can be very helpful. If you have elderly family members who will not be able to attend, try to recruit other family members who can visit them or call them. Many of these folks would probably love to have the opportunity to reminisce about the “old days” or simply enjoy a visit.

Ask everyone to bring one or two of their family albums. Using a portable scanner or a camera, you will be able to acquire photos that you do not currently have of the ancestors as well as share yours with others. Also, you might suggest that people bring those “unlabeled” photos to see if anyone else can identify the person in the photo. This is a good time to remind you to label your pictures as you go along. Your descendants will bless you.

For those with software programs, request that they print a couple of copies of the family history. This will allow folks to review it and offer additions and corrections. You might also ask that someone take on the task of preparing a large family tree. Several years ago, my family did this and color coded the various branches. It proved to be a great success.

I am a great believer in making our histories more than born and died dates. The best way to do this is to talk with the older family members to tease out some of the stories that were shared over the years. You may find that some of the younger folks in the family have heard stories, so don’t overlook them. If you have any diaries or letters from earlier generations, scour them for hints that may trigger someone’s memory. After the Reunion, you might even do some newspaper research for those stories that indicate that they might have made the paper. I have found a couple of beauties.

While you are enjoying all the food that goes with the reunions, don’t forget to get the recipes and where they originated. A great post reunion project is to assemble a small scrapbook with photos of the mothers and grandmothers who gave us the recipe on one page and the recipe on the facing page. Consider making several copies that could be sold for a modest price; great group project.

So, let’s all get busy planning those family reunions where we can enjoy family, food and some detective work.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.