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Preserving Reunions

There are many ways to ensure a special place for reunions in the lives, hearts, memories and history of members. This section outlines just some reunion preservation ideas and we invite you to e-mail us your special ways of preserving and celebrating your reunion.

Sign on the dotted line
Signing on the dotted line is one way to preserve a very important part of your family history. For people doing genealogy and family histories, discovering an ancestor's signature is often considered a significant find, a treasure, something to celebrate.

Now, think ahead, wouldn't it be nice if there were a collection of your family members' signatures? Without a concerted effort at collecting them, signatures might have to continue to be those special finds of genealogists. Resolve to collect members' distinctive signatures at your next reunion.

Autograph books are probably passe now, but they could be a repository of family treasures. In fact, autograph books might be something for kids to make at reunions to collect family signatures. Save these little books and years from now great family treasures will be secure.

To make autograph books
Use two pieces of cardboard for front and back covers and plain 20# paper for filler pages. If you're into serious preservation, you'll want to use archival paper for the inside pages. Punch holes for the binding and thread some pretty yarn, ribbon or string through the holes and tie in a bow on the front. The front cover could be scored (bent) near the binding to give it slightly easier access opening.

Memory book alternative
Lloyd Dean made and shared a wonderful book called An Appalachian Reunion from the 25th Dean & Creech Family Reunion. Instead of using a conventional memory book format, Dean made a book comprised mainly of candid snapshots of family members at the reunion. Pictures are interspersed with clippings saluting achievements and sadly, obituaries.

This is a great way to remember your reunion and it's easy to do! The cover is made of colored, light card stock. Inside pages are collages of cut and pasted pictures. Imagine looking back at reunions and see family spending time together. And family members will probably be pleased to see themselves in the book. Thanks for a great idea, Lloyd!

Use family memories to bridge the past to the future
You've heard him tell the story a million times: during Thanksgiving dinner ... at your son's birthday party ... even at Uncle Joe's funeral. But your dad never tires of telling it.

You've eaten your mother's favorite chicken dish almost as many times as you've heard your dad tell his favorite story. Now, you're all grown up and live 1,000 miles away and your mouth still waters every Tuesday, chicken surprise night at your parents' house.

Do you remember all the details of your dad's story to share with your children after he's gone? Do you know your mom's secret chicken surprise ingredient? Will you continue to enjoy her recipe when she's not around? Or will you be overcome with nostalgia every time you eat a chicken dish that's good but "nothing like what mom used to make?"

Document the stories, memories, and experiences you take for granted. You owe it to yourself. Give your family and future generations the exciting adventure of traveling back in time.

The Association of Personal Historians
Interest in collection and preservation of individual and family history has increased dramatically in recent years. More people than ever are writing and preserving memories as photographs, tape recordings, scrapbooks, collections of family stories and books. Exploring new technologies such as video cameras, computers, color copies and short-run printing enhance traditional story preservations and develop new methods.

The Association of Personal Historians (APH) is a professional alliance of individuals and businesses whose mission is to assist preserving life stories and memories. Their members have expertise in journalism, non-fiction writing, publishing, genealogy, history, storytelling, gerontology, counseling and video documentary.

If you are writing or thinking about writing your personal or family history, APH offers "coaching" at Lots of examples will help motivate you.

For example, Randy C. Smart of preserves family pictures from oblivion. He offers a new interactive multimedia family album on cross-platform CDs. Another example is Julie McCullough (, whose business, Your Story Oral and Family Histories, can help you preserve much of your precious legacy.

High tech memory sharing
"I’ll be sure to send you a copy," my cousin said about a picture he just took of my family. That was more than five years ago and I still haven’t seen it. My pictures were fine, but I’d love pictures other relatives took. Everyone knows about e-mailing pictures. It’s easy to copy photos and mail them the old fashioned way. But we don’t make time for it.

Create a Video by PhotoVision, is a new product that makes it easy to share and present pictures in an entertaining way. A video with special effects, music and titles is created with pictures. After your reunion, mail your film to PhotoVision. The film is processed, printed and the best pictures are selected for the video.

Video copies are $9.95 each. A single-use camera or roll of film is provided for every ten videos ordered. Price includes film costs, pictures and shipping costs to one person for distribution or, for a fee it is sent to each member’s home. PhotoVision also creates videos from old family pictures and 8mm movies to video transfers. Contact Brenda Grimes, 800-533-7636.


Tips to preserve family documents
A few simple and inexpensive precautions can help preserve your family’s important documents for future generations. Remove paper clips, staples, and rubber bands. Don’t glue, tape, or laminate. Metal fasteners rust, rubber bands lose their elasticity and adhere to paper. Both glue and tape hasten paper deterioration. Glue also attracts insects and lamination may or may not be harmful, but it is almost always irreversible.

Store documents at room temperature. Avoid storing them in rooms like the basement and attic or against outside walls. Extreme heat and dampness speed deterioration. A good rule of thumb is if the temperature and humidity feel good to you, it’s fine for your documents too. Documents are best stored in the dark (flat, acid-free containers). Avoid lengthy displays under damaging fluorescents or direct sunlight. Avoid folding and unfolding important documents. If you’re saving newspapers or clippings, store them separately from other less acidic, documents. If the newspaper or clipping is important for the information it contains rather than as an artifact, photocopy it. A photocopy will hold up much longer than newsprint.

From the Homestead National Monument of America, Beatrice NE.

Book Reviews
One Memory at a Time: Inspiration & Advice for Writing Your Family Story. by D.G. Fulford. (2000, 156 pages, hardcover, $16.95) Doubleday, 1540 Broadway, New York NY 10036.

Memories are a big part of your history and Fulford encourages you to simply remember your past. There are questions like "Do you remember being afraid to enter the first grade? Have you experienced a natural disaster? Who did you go to the prom with? Did your mother wear a fancy perfume?" All of these questions will send you back in time and help you remember little things for you to pass on to future generations.

One Memory at a Time urges you to realize that there is no right or wrong way to conduct your family history project. Instead of using a strict, step-by-step process of conducting research, this book offers suggestions for what may work best for you. Nine chapters are broken into smaller parts to help you navigate the book and notes set apart from the text highlight points in each section.

Fulford is an award-winning writer, nationally best-selling author, instructor, speaker and former columnist for the Daily News of Los Angeles and New York Times News Service. Her first book, To Our Children's Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come, written with her brother Bob Greene, is America's top selling guide to writing family histories.

From Memories to Manuscript, the Five-step Method of Writing Your Life Story by Joan R. Neubauer. Ancestry, 266 W Center St, Orem UT 84057; 1994, 40 pages, soft-cover, $5.95.

The steps outlined by the author are a great review/reminder of what must be outlined to write one's own story. She also recognizes issues like frustration, feeling like you've lost control on your way to the goal of your own story. She breaks the project into manageable pieces and details each. Worth a look if you are preserving your own fascinating tale.

We were remiss and are corrected by Lisa (McCullough) Youngblood, Green Bay, Wisconsin. In a small article in our Winter 2000 edition, Filling the time capsule, Youngblood said "you may want to check your facts regarding color photos only lasting 50 years and black and white ones lasting 100 years. In 1997, I had the privilege of hearing Henry Wilhelm, director of research at Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc. and widely regarded as the world's foremost expert on the care and preservation of color photographs. His landmark book The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs, is considered the definitive work on the subject. He told us that color images are actually more stable than black and white. Because color is the preferred film for most people, more research has gone into making it more stable. Also, black and white images are now usually printed on resin coated (RC) paper, just like color photographs. If the black and white images were printed on cotton-based fibers they would be more stable than the same images printed on the RC paper. But, take my word for it, it's very expensive and almost always has to be shipped out.

"In my field of preservation specialists, it is no longer the case to suggest families take at least one roll of black and white film for long term storage. The technology has advanced so that most all 35mm prints will last a lifetime or more."

Lisa Makosewski, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a great source of wonderful hints from her McLaughlin Family Reunion. Here are some new ones.

"Another thing that worked well was renting a digital camera to take pictures to insert directly onto the family tree. We didn't want to purchase a digital camera because we weren't sure we would like the pictures. For $50, we rented a $700 camera for the weekend. Good deal! In addition, we created a table to list everyone's name, disk and frame number. Then, as we took "mug shots," we found the person's name, and simply wrote in the disk and frame numbers of the shot. This was a great help in identifying pictures. We were meeting many people, for the first time. We would never have remembered who was who. Photographing and tracking was a two person job; one to take pictures and one to keep track of names, disk and frame numbers.

Evelyn from Texas e-mailed that at their reunion, they had a poster with lots of old photos of family members at a younger time. They numbered photos then played guess who? The one who correctly identified the most photos won. She says the game brings back memories, stories and tales.

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