At the close of our genealogical society’s Spring meeting season—like many other societies, ours takes a seasonal break during the summer months—we typically host a potluck dinner. This is an informal time without speaker or business agenda. We like to use this final month of the season for a no-requirements social event.
Usually, we take this occasion to allow informal sharing in the style of “Bring Your Ancestor to Dinner” or similarly-titled event, when in round-robin fashion, each member takes a moment to talk about a favorite genealogical find of the past year. In this show-and-tell time, we’ve learned a wide variety of details about our local history and the residents who made it happen.
This year, our society wanted to add a different activity. While “Bring Your Ancestor to Dinner” helps us learn what each member has been researching for the past year, we still don’t know very much about each other. Our president, Sheri Fenley, got that revelation one day while chatting with fellow D.A.R. members. Some of the ladies—regulars at the city’s symphony concerts—mentioned their surprise at seeing one of the gentlemen from the genealogical society at the latest concert. He didn’t seem like the type to fancy classical music.
From that observation, Sheri realized there might be a lot of other assumptions each of us makes about those with whom we share only the briefest of times in our monthly society meetings. That’s when she came up with the idea for a game to launch at the annual potluck dinner.
The game was simple: each member planning to attend the potluck was asked to submit, in advance, a list of three personal details that others might not know. The list was emailed to one board member, sworn to secrecy, who would assemble the game.
Drawing up an answer key—in which each fact was carefully linked to the correct person—the facts were then separated from the answers and scrambled, to be read aloud by the event’s emcee. Each person attending the dinner was given an answer sheet with each numbered blank line provided for filling in the response. The names of all participants were printed on the reverse of the page, to help players remember everyone else’s name.
Then, our fun-loving emcee stood up and read the clues, one at a time. Participants were given time to fill in the answer after each clue. The goal: to obtain the highest number of correct matches between clues and the society members who claimed them. There would be prizes.
And oh, what clues they got. One woman had played her violin at the World’s Fair. One had learned to double clutch a truck at the age of seven. One was born in a lumber camp; another in the midst of New York City. Two had climbed to the top of Mount Whitney. There were tap dancers, cheerleaders, Girl Scouts, gardeners, crafters. They confessed their hometown love of five cent cupcakes from the downtown Woolworth's store, or escapades like rappelling off three story buildings. Some shared their travel experiences—to South America, Europe, and even to “The Center of the World”—and some divulged their childhood nicknames.
When the game was up and the right answers revealed, the amazement exploded into a volley of conversation. Each comment usually began with, “I didn’t know you….”
It’s funny how we can go regularly to meetings, sitting next to the same people every month, and yet never know much more about them than their names and the mutual passion we share over genealogy. Without detracting from our mission of supporting genealogical research—and in the guise of something as fun as a simple game—we got to learn “Three Things You Might Not Know About Me” and do a little community-building for our own organization at the same time.