more we hear about families who include touring significant family/ancestor
places as part of their reunion. This is a particularly special
activity when many members are attending from out-of-town and
rarely have the opportunity to visit. These would include homes/homesteads,
farms, neighborhoods, schools, churches and cemeteries. Some families
even do re-enactments in conjunction with the tours. We are very
interested in learning about your history tour, e-mail us!
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Let someone else do the driving! For reunion touring you may want to offer a motorcoach so everyone can ride together in comfort.
Heritage Haunt by Linda L.K. Armstrong
Want to create a memorable reunion event that captures family history and entertains everyone at the same time? The answer is a Heritage Haunt.
A Heritage Haunt consists of tours of family homes, farms, schools, neighborhoods and businesses. It includes favorite restaurants, parks, and bars, and other sites where interesting family events took place. Aside from visiting locations, family history is shared through stories, narration, re-enactments, pictures, antiques and artifacts.
Imagine sitting in the same tree where Grandpa Albert carved Grandma Edna's initials seventy-five years ago. Picture yourself climbing the steps to the hayloft where Aunt Ruth and Uncle Harold had their first kiss. Who couldn't laugh at seeing the school banister where Albert Jr.'s head was lodged throughout one entire 4th grade recess?
These "haunts" are your family's heritage. They are where stories and memories were born. When you visit, the past is alive, well, and firmly linked to the present.
This inexpensive tour is actually a backdrop for an afternoon of stories, music, food, games, and laughter. It's a way for the entire family to participate in a single activity as they connect with each other and their shared past.
Planning your "Heritage Haunt"
Select core family members
First, determine which family members or ancestors to focus on for your tour/haunt. Often, families have core members that who are the focal point for the rest of the family. Focus on these people for your tour. Once you select several members, narrow your list to particularly lively characters or families, living or deceased, who are well known by the people attending the reunion.
Research family history and possible sites
Start by creating a family history sketch to select sites and dig up interesting stories. Search your memory first. Jot down whatever you know about these core members. Where were they from originally (country, city, state)? Where did they live? What schools did they attend? Did they own businesses? Where did they work? Where did they spend time? Which neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, stores and clubs were their favorites? Where did they attend church? Where did the married couples meet? Where did children spend their time?
Create a history sketch filled with information about who these members were, what they did in life, interesting events associated with them, and locations or sites associated with the stories. Once you have some ideas, call other relatives and ask for information and stories.
Narrow and research the locations
From the history sketch, select places to visit. As you consider each site, ask yourself the following questions. Does the site still exist? Is the site interesting because of its history or stories? How long will it take to travel to this site? Is the site an option for a large group? Is it accessible to family members with special needs? Once youve selected a site, research it. Find out who owns it; is it public or private property? If possible, research the site's history before and after your family.