Over the years, there has seemed to be a decline in the gatherings we call family reunions. In the old days, families would get together on someone’s farm. Relatives from all over, even those living in different states, would make their way back home. This was an exciting time for most children as they were able to see their cousins and spend some time playing, talking, and laughing once again. Most of the women cooked for days while others brought a covered dish to share. Often, families would eat their meals on the grounds outdoors. Family members would bring old photographs, bible records, and other family history related items to share. Some would tell stories of days gone by. This was the best time to get addresses for mailing Christmas cards later on.
There had not been a family reunion in my parents’ families for many years. I decided to host one for my dad’s side of the family in the fall of 2013. Soon after, I was able to attend another family reunion on my mother’s side of the family. Both sides of my family hold the last name Johnson, which is why I had always been told I was related to two sets of Johnsons in the community. In the mountains, Johnsons were innumerable, making it difficult to trace down a specific name without getting confused. Many Johnson men shared the same first name after their father or grandfather, as did different sets of Johnsons.
Many relatives who attended that year in 2013 are no longer living. I prepared and showed a slideshow of old photos I had gathered through many years of research. One elder relative sat beside me the whole time telling me stories of the various people in the photographs that were shown. I was able to find some new photos and stories to add to my collection that others had brought or shared. Photographs of my grandmothers’ as young ladies and my grandfathers as hardworking farm hands. How I wish I could have had the stories and memories from those who were no longer with us.
As a young girl, I wasn’t too interested in family history. I began researching many years later once I had married and had children. It was difficult as many of my precious loved ones had already passed on, so those once told stories or any new ones were now a mystery. Family reunions help keep those things alive.