Overview of Topic
For Additional Research
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Search Topic 36:

Family Reunions

Web Search Guides

by Tom Stewart, Associate Editor

I. Overview of Topic

"Family reunions, like family members, come in all shapes and sizes," says Tom Ninkovich in his book, Family Reunion Handbook. "The first task of those planning a family reunion is to decide what kind to have. It can be a huge, joyous gathering or a small, low-key event. It can last for several hours or several days. It can be held on the same weekend every year or once every five years. It can be in Grandma's back yard, at a dude ranch, or in a hotel. Some reunions return to the same spot each time. Others move around."

Much of the task of planning a family reunion involves research - just what the Internet is good at - so most families nowadays make use of online resources in planning their reunions. First, you need to decide - as Ninkovich says - what kind of family reunion to have. One way to do this is to simply email family members, whether they're mostly local or are scattered nationwide, and ask for their preferences. Once the type of reunion is decided upon, the next step is to get organized, and for many families that means either appointing a person or a committee to plan the family reunion. You'll find a lot of help in the planning stage online - one of the best sites for this is (see Section II, below), but there are numerous others, most of them free.

Some families set up family websites during the planning stage as a way of keeping everyone "in the loop," and informed about the current status of the upcoming reunion. It's also a great way to share news, stories and experiences, and to get started on a genealogical project. If this idea is of interest, check out

Checklist of Planning Tasks

Nearly all family reunions involve all or most of the following tasks --

  • Appointing a committee. If your family reunion will be of fairly large size, you'll need to set up a committee to share the work, headed by a Reunion Chairperson. You'll also need to appoint a Site Coordinator to choose and make arrangements for the site where the reunion will be held. And you'll need to arrange for periodic meetings of committee members, either in person, by phone or via the Internet. (A number of good online meeting software services are available - try Go To Meeting, for example.)
  • Locating family members
  • Developing and maintaining a mailing list
  • Setting up a budget and soliciting donations from family members who will attend
  • Writing newletters and mailers (optional)

At the reunion, there will be a number of separate tasks and responsibilities--

  • Food/beverages/meals/refreshments
  • Schedule and organize events, such as sporting events, tours, etc.
  • Music (optional)
  • Public address system
  • Children's activities
  • Adult activities
  • Photography
  • Registration desk
  • Name tags/badges
  • Housing arrangements
  • Parking arrangements
  • Set-up and clean-up

Financial Considerations

One of the trickier tasks you'll face will be setting up and managing a budget. You need to be as careful as possible to include every possible family reunion expense in your budget. Then you need to decide what your sources of income will be.

All family reunions are unique, but here are the most common expense items you'll need to budget for --

  1. food and beverages
  2. site rental (hotel, community center, resort, etc., unless you're using a free public space, like a city park); don't forget to add in tips, if using a hotel or resort
  3. out-of-pocket costs, such as for mailings, finding people, office supplies, phone calls, etc.)
  4. entertainment, such as hiring a band
  5. photography or videography
  6. room or table decorations
  7. printing of invitations or programs
  8. name tags
  9. flowers or wreaths if a memorial service
  10. honored guest's rooms, meals and transportation
  11. signs and placards

As for income sources, most reunion committees fund their get-togethers through registration fees, ticket sales for meals and tours, donations, and fund-raisers. Of course, you may incur an added expense if your family members are far-flung and you have to solicit contributions by mail or phone calls.

In any case, you'll definitely want to set up a good record-keeping system for your reunion. You have a variety of choices, such as using simple 4x6 file cards, a 3-ring binder, or a computer program like Excel. For each guest you'll want to keep track of two types of information, personal and financial.

Personal information should include name and address, phone number, services volunteered, special dietary or personal needs, and whatever else you feel is relevant.

Financial information on each guest should make note of dues paid or owed, registration fees paid or owed, donations, etc.

Finding People

Finding people is now much easier than it used to be, thanks to the Internet. While the main tool for locating lost relatives used to be out-of-town phone directories from the library (or long-distance information) now you can make use of inexpensive online people-search services. There are literally hundreds of these nowadays, but their prices vary greatly and their quality varies almost as greatly. I've found one of the better ones to be US Search, which is one of the Internet's biggest data brokers. You don't have to pay them for each individual search - you can "rent" access to their databases for a day or several days, and during that time run as many searches as you need.

So the best strategy would seem to be to make a complete list of all family members you would like to send invitations to, then develop as many addresses/phone numbers as you can on your own or with the help of others in your family. As a final step, use US Search. Of course there will possibly be some you just can't locate. Perhaps they've moved overseas, changed their names, etc. That's unfortunate but unavoidable.

By the way, if you have someone's address but need to verify it or its zip code, try the Postal Service's Web page at And for a map of telephone area codes, visit

Reunion Sites

First, note that an extensive listing and description of reunion sites can be found at

In his book Family Reunion Handbook, Tom Ninkovich observes that "Most family reunions are held in backyards, neighborhood parks, state parks, or local community centers. And well they should be. After all, these are the cheapest places...". He then offers the following suggestions for "special" reunions that celebrate a special event or fulfill a special wish --

  • Cruises. See our other Web Search Guides report on this topic, at
  • Condominiums. For recommendations, contact: Condominium Travel Associates, 203-975-7714
  • Houseboats. For a list of houseboat rental agencies, contact the Houseboat Association of America, 800-744-6581
  • Dude Ranches. Consult Ranch Vacations by Eugene Kilgore, or visit his website
  • Luxury Resorts. Best to book off-season if possible.
  • College Campuses. Consult Campus Lodging Guide (updated yearly). 800-525-6633

That's it - our ten minutes are up! (OK, maybe twelve or thirteen). Below is a listing of Web resources to help you continue your research on family reunions.


II. For Additional Research

This Section provides reviews and recommendations of Web sites and other online resources

Very useful family reunion site with great free resources, including tutorials on organizing, selecting a family reunion date, family reunion activities, finances, food/meal planning, etc. They also offer family reunion planning software, "Family Reunion Organizer," for $29.95. I haven't reviewed it and therefore can't recommend it, but you might give their free demo version a try. The software purportedly helps you "organize your reunion guest list, finances, schedule, and assignments, and will even create a family reunion web page."

Related Web Search Guides
Other Web Search Guides you may find useful:
Cruise Vacations
People Search

Recommended Reading


III.Discussion Group


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