Saturday, April 15, 2017

Playing With Anniversary Dates

On this day in 1912, the largest ship afloat collided with an inconveniently-placed iceberg in the waters of the north Atlantic, costing the lives of over fifteen hundred passengers. While that was one of the greatest tragedies of its time, we've had over one hundred years to distance ourselves from that horror. And yet, we still remember.

Anniversary dates seem to have a pull on our fascination, and not just for history buffs. Granted, there is something more attention-grabbing about saying an event happened on this date, one hundred years ago. But one hundred or one hundred and an extra five, we still pause to remember.

We don't only recall dates of the somber, of course. We also find interest in remembering more upbeat anniversaries. Like the one hundred twenty eight years since an anniversary date we just passed at the end of last month—March 31, 1889, the date the Eiffel Tower was completed—for those preferring something a bit more romantic.

Dates from history come in all shapes and sizes. There's surely one that can pique your curiosity—whether about a hobby, a career, or another point of affinity. Perhaps it has something to do with our weakness for trivia intriguingly presented. Finding a way to grab the attention can sometimes open the door to introduce further details.

I've often toyed with the idea of blending the genealogical details I've discovered through my research with the traction people get from utilizing anniversary dates. For instance, would those we know take a second glance at family history facts if they were wrapped up in a package called, "On this Date in History"? What about putting together a calendar where, instead of the usually designated holidays, dates of ancestors' weddings or graduations were listed?

Or a bingo game containing life events from five different ancestral lines? (How's this: the Bauers, the Ingrahams, the Nelsons, the Gianellis, and the O'Neils.)

Every year, our genealogical society holds a potluck social. One of the most popular games we've played during this event we've since dubbed, "Three Things You Don't Know About Me." Ahead of time, each attendee submits three unusual facts about himself or herself, which is then entered without the accompanying name, in random order, on a printed game form. Some of the statements we've received have to do with unusual places of birth, unusual or famous relatives, or unexpected accomplishments from years past.

On the evening of the event, each guest is given the game form, along with a list of each participant's name. The goal is to match the right name with the right three statements. There is, of course, a prize for the astute member who is most successful at rightly aligning which statements belong to which participant's name. But everyone wins because we all come away from the event getting to know something more about our fellow society members.

Finding a way to integrate the more fascinating details of our ancestors' lives into our current festivities—whether for holiday gatherings or other family events—allows us to use the pull of anniversary dates and the fun of games to awaken further interest in our own family's heritage.   


  1. Sounds like a game one could play with grandchildren or even children:)

    1. Any time you can make a game out of something learn-able, the better it is. It's been great, seeing people talking about their ideas on this in books on how to share genealogy with children and grandchildren, so your idea is right in sync with that.


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