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Last-minute activity for your Thanksgiving gathering

Today I have two printables for you to use at your Thanksgiving gathering. They are simple questionnaires for all the attendees. These are simple genealogical questions but they are intentionally flexible so you can adjust them to fit your gathering.
Need a quick Thanksgiving activity for kids and adults? Why not get some family history information (even from non-family) at this year's Thanksgiving. | The Occasional Genealogist


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!


Genealogy Questionnaire

Boring! --- Well that's up to you!

Each form is labeled "Thanksgiving 2017" 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 is for younger children. The adult questionnaire will be fine for teenagers and possibly even older elementary school kids. My kids are so young it's hard for me to remember at what age I could answer this type of question without a problem.

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. If your gathering needs livening up, 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. 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.

Include Everyone


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. That applies to relatives, too.

There are a few reasons people may be uncomfortable so be aware of these. Some people will be uncomfortable writing down information that is exactly what an identity thief would want (an 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 so don't skip them just because it's not relevant to your genealogy.

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.

If you're interested, feel free to use this as a starting point to create your own form tailored to your gathering. This is intentionally short for gatherings where you have, let's say "less willing" participants (I'm talking about those grumpy relatives that will complain no matter what you do---they always seem to have great genealogy information once you get over the grump).


Genealogy Game Time

So how do you make this a game? I'm leaving it up to you based on your gatherings but here are some easy suggestions.

If you just need to get people talking (or maybe redirect a conversation that's going to become awkward), you can focus on just sharing the most interesting responses. This might be what little kids replied but you might read through and pick great memories or witty responses.

You can take it up a notch to create an actual "game" by having people guess who gave certain responses. This can be simple (just have people guess) or create teams.

Teams can be fun if you have a group of teenagers (because they know everything, right?) or if you have a very mixed group. With a mixed group (relatives and non-relatives, or relatives from both sides) mix up the teams. You could even pair people up and have everyone write down their guesses (create intentionally mis-matched "couples" but don't pair up people you know don't get along).

If you want to take the guessing game further, create some additional questions ahead of time. Test your family's knowledge about their ancestors. Mix these up with guessing who gave responses.

Even with non-relatives, this can still work if you have teams. If you know you'll have a number of non-relatives (or even just one you don't want to exclude), make your questions something a team could reason out.

For example, if you have a lot of recent immigrant ancestors, but not all, a question might be, "which side of the family had a Confederate Civil War soldier?" Non-relatives can help work through the math and logic of who had someone living in the south in the 1860s. (I hope your gathering can remember when the Civil War happened---you can make your questions harder if you have history buffs or keep them easy if determining which century the Civil War occurred in will tax your guests).

It's up to you to determine what level of "fun" you want to create (and how much time you want to spend) on answering the questions and if you want to make this a simple or involved game.

If you need an activity but not too much activity, you can also consider sending the questionnaires to relatives ahead of time (or call them and record the answers yourself to make sure you get answers). Then your activity can be sharing or playing a game without needing the time to answer the questions.

As I said, these questionnaires are intentionally simple and not too specific so you can adjust to your gathering.

After you've used these, come back and let me know how it went.

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