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Family Gatherings, Family Tree

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

Once I attended a family reunion which wasn't as entertaining as it promised to be. Sitting with my aunt and my mother-in-law we found that we spent most of the early afternoon figuring out how everyone was related to us. After dinner one of us took out a pen and began to scribble a family tree onto the paper tablecloth. It was quite an extensive oak when we were finished, and we had many missing branches.


In the weeks that followed my mother-in-law and I tried to find those branches. We filled in birth dates, middle names, and other family trivia but still had holes. We then decided that during the following year's reunion we were going to finish this tree.

Planting Our Tree

At the reunion which brought together the sides of a very large family, we made it known that we were creating our tree. Aunts, cousins, and some people we didn't know (and who never did make it onto that tree) helped us to fill in all of the information we needed. We successfully mapped the branches of the predecessors and successors to two people who had twelve children, all of which had children and grandchildren of their own. It was quite a tree.

Our tree inspired us. We made one for each side of my husband's family as well as for my own smaller family. It took hours of work and reams of paper, but tucked in a scrapbook are my trees. From there I was inspired to find pictures of these people, another family reunion project. This third reunion I took candid photos so that I could keep them in a scrapbook which looked like a high school yearbook of my husband's clan. Then, I delved into boxes of photos in my own grandmother's attic to create a family shrub of my family. All in one album we created my complete family album, all forty some pages of it plus printouts of the family trees that had come together the day my husband and I were married, our family.


The Value of a Tree

Why is this story important? It's important because I learned some things while creating my trees for three years. I learned about my families and from where we came, and I finally learned all the names at the Butterbaugh reunions. I also learned a great way to pass time at family reunions. Most of all, I learned about time.

The time I spent with the people who helped me to put the albums together was the most precious result of the work. My grandmother identified people that no one else but she knew; now they're labeled forever. I heard stories that would have one day been forgotten, and we found pictures of people who had fallen to the backs of our minds.

Most recently, I realized the importance of those family reunion afternoons. When my mother-in-law passed away six weeks ago, I remembered working with her on the family album. She was the one everyone asked when they needed a family address or cousin's birthday, and as we move on without her I realize the importance of what she gave to me. That afternoon as we sifted through the pictures to create a collage for her memorial, I knew who the people in the pictures were thanks to her and it made me miss her all the more.


As the holidays approach, arrange gatherings for your family and create a family tree, take a family portrait, or make a family video. These are the things I did and will never regret.

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December 13, 20060 found this helpful

Reading this made me think of the times I have spent with my own mother in law and how I miss her so. If I had sat with her done one of these trees it would be so fantastic as she was the last one in her generation who remembered all the aunts, Uncles and so on.


I am so happy for you and what it brought to you.

God bless,

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