Family Reunion Bingo Games!

Reunion at Lagoon 1926

Isn’t this photo awesome?!  This Family Reunion photo was taken at Lagoon* in 1926.  The family gathered are the descendants of my 2nd great grandparents Frederick William Ellis and Susan Kaziah Davis.

My family still holds three different reunions today.  They look a little something like this.


Great Grandchildren of Ronald & Margaret

I really love family reunions but one of the main challenges is getting everyone talking to each other.  It’s easy for the siblings and first cousins, but second cousins and cousins from different generations?  Not so easy.  Everyone experiences the same silly obstacle – they feel dumb asking people’s names.  We always have name-tags available but hardly anyone puts one on.

Well, last summer I was in charge of the Rulon and Naomi Peterson Family Reunion.  Rulon and Naomi are my great grandparents.  This reunion is held every summer in late July or early August and includes 4 generations of my family.  I love to see and visit with my Grandpa’s younger siblings.  His brothers remind me so much of my Grandpa that it takes my breath away for just a minute, in a good way.

But all those younger cousins, understandably, gravitate to their grandparents, parents, and first cousins.  I wanted to shake that up and get people interacting more and remembering our family members who are no longer with us.

So, I made two bingo games that required asking people questions.  I had good prizes too.  There were lots of little party favor type prizes for Bingos like stretchy frogs, bouncy balls, suckers, lip balm, packs of gum, etc.  Then I had a few big prizes for the first 5 or so people who earned a blackout – a cool water gun, two $10 gift cards for lunch, and a few other items I’ve forgotten.  In all I spent about $90 from the budget.  And every penny was worth it.

This was the easy Bingo game:


As soon as I explained the game to the first children to arrive, they instantly starting running around asking everyone the answers.  The adults who were trying to remember things, had to talk to each other about it too.  Lots of good family conversations were going on.  After several kiddos exhausted this Bingo board, they moved on to the harder game.  This one was about our deeper family history.  This entire side of my family are LDS, so you will notice that reflected in both games.


I really loved the conversations that both Bingo games generated.  We heard some family stories and facts that I had never heard before – and that is saying something!  There was an awesome feeling during this whole reunion as we had dinner and talked, and filled in our Bingo cards.  Our focus was on our family members and we all felt their love and presence with us that night.

After dinner I wrapped things up by sharing that I had recently come into possession of a large collection of family letters including a box of letters written by Naomi.  This is a special treasure for all of us because she died very young, with one child still at home, and left no journals or personal history.  But those five years of letters she wrote to my Grandpa include so much of her heart and life.  I read this little story from one of her letters:

From a letter dated Friday, October 13, 1944, written by Naomi Peterson to Ronald Peterson:

“I must tell you about Janice and Marilyn.  We went in to Lienhardt’s to get the candy last night and when we came home Marilyn’s new robe was over the back of the chair by the telephone.  It looked wet and on further examination I found a pool of water under the chair.  This morning Janice stated to laugh saying she had never seem anything so funny in her life.  Marilyn had filled the bath tub for her bath.  She and Janice were standing by the mirror.  Marilyn says things just to make Janice angry – rather smart you remember.  Janice gave her a disgusted push and sat Marilyn in the tub robe and all.  Her feet were hanging out and her head against the soap dish.  Janice said she went in very gracefully.  Marilyn says there is going to be a big splash one of these times.”

What a treasure.  It was a joy to see everyone’s eyes light up as I told them about the letters and shared this story.  It was a great reunion with a very simple set of activities.


If you have a family reunion coming up, I wholeheartedly suggest you consider making your own version of Family Bingo.  Everyone loved it and they were used again at a smaller reunion for one of my Great Uncles and his family.  I also emailed copies to everyone who couldn’t attend including answers for the second Bingo card.


If you would like to use my docs as a starting point to make your own, here they are:



And if you are related to me and are curious about the answers, here is the copy with answers:



I will just add one more tip – I did not put a limit on the number of prizes.  I also didn’t worry a lot about the prizes.  The kids knew I had created the game, they would come to me and show me their card and I would send them over to choose their prize.  Some kids made a serious haul, but it kept the conversations going all night.  Plenty of adults and teenagers played too – and took prizes.  I made sure I had a Costco sized bag of High-Chews as backup in case we ran low on prizes, we did use the High-Chews and got very close to running out of everything.


Have you ever been in charge of a Family Reunion?  What activities have you enjoyed at Family Reunions?



*Lagoon is an amusement park here in Utah that started out as a place for bowling, dancing, and eating.  The first thrill ride was added in 1899.


Family Reunion Bingo Games



Tell Me A Story – “You have my mother’s eyes!”

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story Challenge :

Choose a person.  Then do any or all of the following:

  • Make a list of the top ten stories about this person, a word or phrase will do.
  • Choose one story and tell a compelling, short version that will interest your family members in one minute or less.
  • Tell a more detailed version of that story including photos if you have them.

Notes:  You can read about my inspiration behind this challenge here.  I’ve decided to reverse the order in my post.  If you are reading this, you like stories so I’ll start with the full story, then the bite-sized story to hook my family members, then the list of ten stories.

This past summer I attended the annual Rulon & Naomi Peterson Family Reunion.  Rulon & Naomi are my great grandparents.  I usually attend the reunion so I’m quite familiar with my grandfather’s living siblings.  We see each other at weddings and we exchange Christmas Cards and the occasional phone call or email.  We definitely aren’t strangers.

My Grandpa’s youngest brother is Wayne.  I see Uncle Wayne a few times a year and we always talk for a few minutes.  He loves to tell me stories about my Grandpa and I love to hear them.

This past summer Uncle Wayne and I were early arrivals at the reunion.  We were each helping with some last minute arranging and started to chat when he grabbed both of my hands, looked very intently into my eyes and said tearfully, “You have my mother’s eyes.  I had never noticed.  She was a wonderful mother.  Thank you for reminding me of her.”

My great grandmother is so dearly beloved by everyone in our family, including me, and this moment with Uncle Wayne made me feel a new connection with her.  I’m so glad that he told me that.  I will treasure that brief, but poignant conversation all my life.  It was a bridging between generations.

One Minute Story

My Uncle Wayne once told me that I have his mother’s (my great grandmother’s) eyes.

Top Ten Stories List for Naomi (well, in her case eight):

  • Picking Cherries
  • Chocolate Cake
  • Divinity and the Great Depression
  • Zucchini Bread
  • Letter to Grandpa
  • Selling Eggs
  • “You have my mother’s eyes.”
  • Nao-ma


Note:  I wasn’t ready to move on to a new subject for this weeks story so chose another story from my list about Naomi.  That is the beauty of making the list!


Family Reunion Book Awesomeness

Great Grandchildren of Ronald & Margaret

Great Grandchildren of Ronald & Margaret

At the end of June, my family gathered for a four day reunion in Bear Lake.  Our reunion began on the 65th anniversary of my grandparent’s wedding day.  You would think that was intentional.  It wasn’t, but a lovely way to start our gathering nonetheless.

There were a bunch of us – 57 I think – all descendants & spouses of my grandparents.  Only six couldn’t be there.  It was awesome to be together.  When I look at this photo of the great grandchildren I am delighted.  What a big bunch of happiness sitting on those steps!  My grandparents have 27 great grandchildren (with one due in November and plenty more yet to be).  My grandparents died too young.  Grandpa only met one of his great grandchildren before his death.  Grandma lived several more years.  She was able to meet nine of her great grandchildren.  I know they would be so proud of this big, rowdy group.  In fact, they probably are.

Grandchildren of Ronald & Margaret

Grandchildren of Ronald & Margaret

Grandma & Grandpa were blessed with 17 grandchildren.  Here are 14 of us – in age order.  My two brothers couldn’t attend, one cousin had to leave before we took photos and another cousin is currently serving a mission in Germany.  I love my cousins!  It was so great to spend four days together.

This year I prepared a book for our family reunion.  I geared it towards the great grandchildren, but it turned out to be a hit with everyone.  It was a workbook based on several generations of our family.  I had a tub with prizes.  The first day I told everyone they could earn one prize for completing five items in the book.  On the second day they could earn two prizes, five items per prize.  The third and fourth days were unlimited prizes, still five items per prize.

A good group of Family History Detectives

A good group of Family History Detectives

It was a hit!  At first the kids were participating for prizes.  As the days passed many family members were really interested in learning and talking about our family.  I loved hearing my cousins and their kids asking the uncles/grand uncles questions from my book.  There were some cool discoveries and conversations that helped us all feel a greater connection with our family.

The book has several sections:

  • A simple four generation pedigree for names only
  • Pages about Grandma & Grandpa with pages for four photos.
  • Pages about their four children.
  • Pages about their 17 grandchildren.
  • Pages about their 27 great grandchildren.  The big hit in this section was matching the ggrandkids to their parents.
  • Guess the ancestor section with facts and stories about ancestors with a space to write their name.
  • A map to color in the countries our ancestors came from with an adjoining page to list our immigrant ancestors by name.
  • A puzzle section.

The front and back cover were printed on card stock and the book was bound with a small spiral binding.  The book is 42 pages long.  You can view an altered pdf version here – booklet pdf .  I took out or changed names.  The actual book was a bit more clear with full names and names where it now has some blanks.  If you are interested in creating your own book for a future reunion here is my word doc – booklet doc.  I printed these at home and had them bound at a local print shop.  I brought two tubs, one held the books, a bunch of pens, a few glues sticks, and copies of four photos for every book.  The second tub had small prizes.

This project was a fabulous way to share my knowledge and love for my ancestors with my family.

I love reunions, my family, and my heritage!


Does your family hold reunions?  How do you honor your ancestors at your family gatherings?
Family Reunion Book


Still Here!

Carter & Harrison, bear lake, 2014

My little fellas, Bear Lake, 28 June 2014

I’ve been itching to get back to my blog – there are so many things I have to say, and so little time!  Here are a few of the big genealogy things that have been on my mind:

  • I created a fabulous mini book for our family reunion to help the great grandchildren learn more about our family.  It was awesome!  And even better, the kids loved it and worked on it.
  • Facebook groups for genealogy – which are your favorites?  They can be great and well, not so great.
  • FamilySearch indexing day was amazing.  I’m so impressed with their final numbers!  My two teenagers participated.  Can I just say I was completely surprised?  It turns out my 13 year old is pretty excellent at deciphering old handwriting.  Now I just need to figure out how to get him actually interested…  Did you join the fun?
  • Today is Pioneer Day.  I have lots of Mormon Pioneers in my tree.  Today is a tender day for me as I consider the many hardships they endured.  Last night my 13 year old offered our family prayer.  Among other things he said, “Please help us to remember the real meaning of Pioneer Day.”  Such a sweet moment for my mother heart.  I love this quote – “Can we somehow muster the courage and steadfastness of purpose that characterized the pioneers of a former generation?  Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers [today]?”  – Thomas S. Monson.  Do you have any Mormon Pioneers in your tree?
  • I have one more LARGE family reunion this summer.  I am one of the three people in charge.  I need to come up with some sort of activity, some family history type activity.  I have a few ideas brewing…
  • Who Do You Think You Are? started back up!  My favorite show.  Do you watch?
  • My family and I have discovered a new {to us} show on Netflix – Alaska The Last Frontier.  I am in love with this show because I have three generations in my family that were involved with homesteads in Alaska.  There were two homesteads, one was completed, one was not.  The one that was completed was started by my 3rd great grandfather Henry Hyde.  He died before it was completed so his wife Alice Whiteley Hyde completed it without him.  Watching this show has really opened my eyes to how difficult life is in Alaska.  I am gaining new respect and admiration for this part of my family with every episode I watch.

I’m still here, soaking up every bit of genealogy goodness I can find in the world.  See you in a few weeks!