It seems a lot of people are stopping by here looking for advice on writing family reunion letters. I have not actually ever planned a family reunion or written a letter, so take my advice with that in mind.
It seems logical to me that the first step involved in planning a reunion is to scout out among your family members for interest. If no one is interested, it will be an exercise in frustration. Give yourself plenty of time to plan. Large events like this don’t come together at the spur of the moment. My goal with this post is not to teach you how to put together a family reunion; however, but to help you with writing a letter.
First of all, use a word processing program like MS Word to create a mail merge file and send a letter to as many relatives as you can think of. I would create something like this:
The Huff family needs your help. We are organizing a family reunion for July 2007, and we want be sure as many family members attend as possible. Won’t you please help us? We sent a copy of this letter to the following individuals [don’t send addresses; it isn’t necessary]. If you know of someone else who needs to be included in our plans, please send their name and address to us.
Once you have collected as many addresses as possible, send copies of the family group sheet chart (look in the sidebar to the right if you need one) to each family. Ask that they send these back to you, so you will have accurate genealogical information. It would be a nice gesture to include as many family members as possible on some sort of descendent tree chart, like my grandfather’s cousin Lee did for a Cunningham family reunion in the 1990’s. However, be very careful not to include erroneous information, which can inadvertently lead to hurt feelings. A person in one branch of my family simply entered any unknown dates as January 1 of the year in which the event was believed to have occurred. An uninformed person taking that information as truth might decide to build their genealogy files upon that erroneous information, thereby introducing huge errors into the genealogical record.
If you do not receive replies from some families, you might need to contact them again. I personally would not become a pest. If someone made it very clear they didn’t want to cooperate, I would try to include his/her information as best as I could, but I would not invent dates or spellings, and I might indicate such doubts by question marks. Try to exhaust other alternatives — such as contacting other family members you think might have the information. If, for instance, I couldn’t remember my cousin’s daughter’s middle name, and she did not reply with a completed family group sheet, I could try my aunt, who would most likely know the middle name of her granddaughter and would probably reply to my letter.
Please feel free to add your comments if you have tips or advice on family reunion letters for readers of this site.