Tis the season for family gatherings, and I have a few ideas for ways to celebrate heritage and make the genealogy portion interactive and fun for all.
Involve many senses--tactile, kinetic, visual, taste, auditory. Dress up in Grandma's apron, teach the Charleston, dip chocolates like she used to, or sing the favorite song your grandpa wrote. Create a crossword or word search for kids to do. Invite an "ancestor" in costume to talk about their life. Draw a family tree with sidewalk chalk.
A chart is obligatory decor:
An artifact display is nice:
Adding photos/stories to the headstones makes a cemetery tour much more meaningful:
Finding family resemblances is fun:
Tour the old family farm or homestead:
Play a game, such as charades of notable family stories:
Guess who I am with ancestor names taped to your back is entertaining. This game to illustrate the ancestral pioneer emigration was a recent hit:
distribute paper plates on popsicle sticks, photos of female ancestors on pink, male ancestors on blue, places on green square, their parts numbered and taped to the back
[Martin and Adelgunda in Germany; Stephen, Annie, Jane in England; Hans and Mary in Denmark; Addison, Schuyler, Ellis, Rachel, Rachel, Silas, Hannah 1, Hannah 2, in America]
Two hundred years ago, there were several families living far away in Germany, England, Denmark, and America. We are their descendants standing here today. How did they unite?
Well, first a weaver in Germany named Martin met a beautiful redhead named Adelgunda. They married and the Heiner family decided to leave Germany for better opportunities in America. They had many children, and one named Elizabeth was born in Pennsylvania. [Martin and Adelgunda move to America, Elizabeth joins them]
When the gospel was restored, missionaries spread the good news first in America. Thomas Grover was an early Church member and helped build the Kirtland Temple, and then he was a bodyguard for Joseph Smith. Addison Everett and his young son Schuyler joined the church and moved to Nauvoo, where Addison helped build the Nauvoo Temple. Wealthy Quakers Ellis and Rachel Sanders and their young daughter Rachel also joined the Church and moved to Nauvoo. Their house is still there and is now a hotel! The schoolteacher Tupper family came as well. Their daughter Hannah married Thomas Grover in Nauvoo. Silas died and is buried there. [Grovers, Everetts, Sanders, Tuppers all go to Nauvoo—Silas lies down]
Then missionaries traveled across the globe to share the gospel message. In Denmark, two young people named Hans Hegsted and Maren Borglum joined the church, and then got married. After several years, they sailed to America with their young son, Victor.
In England, young Stephen Robert Wells also joined the church and sailed to America. A few years later, Annie Thorne and her mother Jane joined the church in England and sailed to America, and from there crossed the plains to Utah. [Victor joins Hegsteds; Hegsteds, Wells, Thornes to Utah]
In Pennsylvania, the Heiners learned about the gospel and were baptized. They were saving money to come to Zion and then decided to hurry when Elder Karl G. Maeser prophesied that a coming war would be fought near their home. They left only a few years before the Battle of Gettysburg took place close to where they lived. [Heiners to Utah]
All of these families moved west to Utah, except Hannah’s widowed mother who stayed back with relatives. [everyone moves on to Utah except Hannah 1]
Thomas and Hannah had a young son they named Thomas Grover. After they arrived in Utah, they went back east for three years to fetch Hannah’s mother, Hannah. Then they returned to Utah, where grandmother Hannah soon died. [Thomas 2 arrives, all go back to America and fetch Hannah 1, come to Utah, Hannah 1 lies down]
The Hegsteds settled in Idaho. [Hegsteds to Idaho]
Stephen Wells met Annie and they were married. Schuyler met Rachel and they were married. [couples unite]
At General Conference in October of 1861, many families were surprised to be called to settle the Dixie mission in Southern Utah. The Wells family and both generations of Everetts and Sanders moved south. Jane Thorne married a baker in Salt Lake, but soon came to St. George to be with her daughter’s family. [Wells, Sanders, Everetts, Thornes all to Dixie]
Stephen and Annie had a son they named after their new town, St. George.
Schuyler and Rachel had a daughter named Eliza. [children arrive]
This couple grew up together in St. George and married, and they had a son named George in 1906. [George comes, others lie down]
Meanwhile, Thomas Grover Junior married Elizabeth Heiner, and they had a daughter named Hannah. She became a teacher, and when she grew up, she married Victor Hegsted. They had a daughter named Hannah [couple marry, Hannah 4 comes]
Their daughter Hannah grew up and met George Wells. George and Hannah lived in St. George and had four sons, Mark, Gawain, Gary, and Scott [these men and their wives stand], who had children [stand] who had their own children [stand] and even grandchildren, who came together today to celebrate their heritage.
Ancestors, do you have anything you’d like to share with us?
1. I’m Martin Heiner, and I learned English by comparing the English and German Bibles. I baked the Sacrament bread for thirty years.
2. I’m his wife Adelgunda, and I’m sure I helped with that! I’m a redhead and know the New Testament by heart.
3. My name is Thomas Grover, and I was a boat captain on the Erie Canal. I was said to be the handsomest man in Nauvoo.
4. Well, I’m his wife Hannah, and I’m not sure I agree! After fifteen children, I moved away and became a noted cheesemaker.
5. I’m Hannah’s father Silas Tupper, and one of my ancestors was the first governor of Martha’s Vineyard. Plus one of my descendants invented Tupperware!
6. I’m Hannah’s mother and my name is also Hannah. My great-grandmother Hannah Eastman was an Indian captive.
7. My name is Hans Christian Sorensen Hegsted, and I have a long name for a short man. I was only five feet tall.
8. I’m his wife Mary, and I was an excellent dressmaker. My nephew Gutzon Borglum was the sculptor of Mount Rushmore!
9. I’m Jane Thorne, and I came from a tall family. My brother had to have his clothes specially made! I married a baker who made cakes for Queen Victoria.
10. My name is Stephen Wells, and my mother used to say, “Study hard so you can grow up to be as smart as Uncle Isaac!” That’s our great-great-uncle Isaac Newton.
11. I’m Annie, and I came from England with my mother. I went blind in my later years, and died when my skirt caught on fire.
12. I’m Addison Everett, and I was Brigham Young’s teamster. Can any of my descendants make my frowny face?
13. My name is Ellis Mendenhall Sanders, and I wrote in my journal about seeing a comet in Utah. I loved to donate money to the Church!
14. Well, I’m his wife Rachel, and I worried about that. So I sewed a special belt to wear under my clothes and hide gold pieces. My grandfather Jacob Broom signed the Constitution.
15. I’m their daughter Rachel. When I was just a new bride, we moved to St. George. We lived in a wagon box for a year!
16. My name is Schuyler Everett, and I’m Rachel’s husband and Addison’s son. I helped with the Martin-Willie Handcart rescue, and remember meeting the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo.
17. I’m Thomas Grover, Junior, and I had 55 siblings! I wish I’d been able to go to school, but only attended one winter. Too busy farming!
18. I’m Elizabeth, and my parents came from Germany. I married Thomas and was a good frontierswoman, but died young.
19. I was born, married, died, and buried all in St. George, Utah. Can you guess what my name is? That’s right, St. George. At least I got to serve a mission in Colorado and see another place!
20. My name is Eliza Ann—can you say that fast and see where I got my nickname, Aunt Zan? I helped my husband run a farm not far from here.
21. My name is Victor Hegsted, and we emigrated when I was just a baby. I was able to return to Denmark on a mission when I was older. I loved to give blessings of healing.
22. I’m another Hannah, and I was a schoolteacher just like my mother and her ancestors. I was also a principal!
23. I’m Hannah #4 in this group, and most of you remember me as Grandma Rose. I taught at Dixie College.
24. And I’m George Wells, the grandpa none of you knew. I loved my farm animals, and would spend an extra hour just to move the cows into the shade so they weren’t too hot. Thanks for coming to this reunion!
Enjoy making memories!