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23 November 2016

Last-minute ways to torture your family at your Thanksgiving gathering

Today I have two printables for you to use at your Thanksgiving gathering. They are simple questionnaires for all the attendees. They give basic genealogical information about their family and favorite memories. Some families might not consider this torture, but it made a good post title.

There are so many kinds of families out there and even more kinds of holiday gatherings. I've created these forms to be useable in a variety of situations. If your family takes family history seriously, perfect. If they don't, still perfect!

Get the questionnaires in the Resource Library (sign-up for free access here or use the form in the right-hand menu).

Each form is labeled "Thanksgiving 2016" so you don't have to deal with having people writing down the date. I know I'd come home and file them and at some point, any undated ones would make me confused.

There are two printables because one if for younger children. If your gathering doesn't have children that are old enough to answer questions but young enough to be confused by the adult's questionnaire, just use the one for adults. It will be fine for teenagers.

If you want your family to answer these questions because you're a crazy genealogist but they aren't so willing, treat this as a game. No matter what keep it light hearted (many families/gatherings will have someone that has a family-related situation they don't want to write down). Plan to read answers out loud (it doesn't have to be all of them).

Adjust to the situation. For fun, I suggest making sure the younger children answer. In particular, make sure someone fills out a form for each child that is too young to read/write as their answers will be the most entertaining.

The other group you may want to focus on is the oldest relatives. Share their memories and if you can, capture more. The adult questionnaire asks for a favorite memory from childhood and a "favorite memory." This covers a range of ages (teenagers to centenarians). Encourage people to write more on the back.

What if you have non-relatives at this gathering? They can still participate. As a genealogist, it's interesting to look back at who was at a gathering. If you don't know some guests at all, make sure you are cognizant of any discomfort caused (and that applies to relatives, too, you just might know why they don't want to talk about their parents or past Thanksgivings).

Some people will be uncomfortable writing down information that is exactly what an identity thief would want (occupational hazard for genealogists). Others may be unsure what to write if they have a non-traditional family (and who doesn't today?). Others may have a really painful background.

The question strangers should answer (if they don't want to answer much) is "at this gathering I'm related to..." I hate forced participation in activities like this, but I also hate excluding people. Non-relatives at your gathering can provide their name, who they are "related to" by stating who invited them. Then ask them to describe how they know that person. This might be quick if it's a coworker, but it can be more interesting when someone brings a date.

Anyone should be welcome to answer all or none of the questions. Hearing about non-relatives favorite memories can be fascinating.

Also, these intentionally don't have one right way to answer them. If you want certain information, read through ahead of time so you can provide directions. Otherwise, let people answer how they choose.

After you've used these, come back and let me know how it went. I usually do the cooking so I don't get to talk genealogy at Thanksgiving, other than with my fellow cooks. I'd love to hear if you found these too short or too long or if they sparked great conversation. I will update these for winter holidays so provide any feedback you can!

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