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Mark Angelo Askew is the author of "Fimark's Family Reunion Planner Guide Workbook and Keepsake" and the founder and director of the Family Reunion Planning Group that established November as Annual Family Reunion Planning Month.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Virginia Beach In The Fall

Brenda and I spent our honeymoon vacation in a lovely hotel suite by the beach, Beautiful Virginia Beach to be exact. The weather was kind to us. The food, absolutely delicious.  The best thing about Virginia Beach in the fall is the fact that there's only a spattering of vacationers walking, biking and sitting on the beach. That said it's like the entire beach is all yours morning noon and night.

Packing For The Trip

We don't pack anything that's particularly different compared to other trips. But we do prepare an anniversary love basket complete with snacks, favorite DVD's and during our stay we fill it with anniversary keepsakes.  I also prepare an anniversary memories video consisting of video we shot throughout the past year starting with our last anniversary vacation.

Virginia Beach Surprises

We were amazed at how much upper Atlantic Avenue has transformed into an upscale square of galleries, cafes and posh, luxury hotels.  Atlantic Avenue is now where it's happening and the place to be.

We were surprised one morning to see of a lively group of dolphins frolicking against lapping waves and a flock of gulls overhead. The gulls were feeding while the dolphins were wave surfing only yards from our high rise suite. Virginia Beach is alive and well in the fall.

Being known as the Bubble Man back home I decided to take my bubble gear on our anniversary vacation and spend a few hours each day rolling out man sized glistening rainbow colored bubbles gently sweeping across the sand.

It was a wonderful experience. I am always amazed at the shape form and size these mega-bubbles take on a sunny low wind day. And what a good week it was, perfect for making bubble art in the sky.

Night Sky Bubbling

My most memorable moment was late in the evening when the sun went down and left a black velvet sky studded with stars. Brenda and I were sitting on the patio of our suite star gazing. I had just completed putting the last of 72 mini bubbles wands on by home made bubble sprayer. I dipped it in my special-made bubble solution and swoosh! Hundreds of floating crystal pearls lit the starry sky. A thing of sheer beauty graced our 34th honeymoon night.

Making Bubble Conversation

While making bubble art in the sky I always get a chance to talk to people about life, family and the meaning and purpose of life. In most cases people volunteer information about their lives without even asking. They seem eager to talk and listen to the musings and guidance of a bubble man. Why? I don't really know accept the fact that anyone who has the courage to make bubbles must be listener.

If you're looking for family fun activities and craft ideas for your next family weekend get-away subscribe and plus 1 and above all feel free to share. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Family Reunion Activity Ideas

When the subject of planning a family reunion comes up among family members many find it hard to agree on the location or activities. Does this dilemma often delay the planning process? Don't be dismayed. When the well runs dry of good ideas for your next family reunion here are a few suggestions that will get your planning off and running straight to the finish line.

1. Choose a Theme
2. Choose Theme Related Activities
3. Choose the Ideal Location
4. Create your Itinerary and Luncheon/Dinner Program
5. Event Planning Software

Choose a Family Reunion Theme

The first step in planning the event is choosing a theme. Your theme will help you determine activities, location and the items in your Itinerary and dinner program. There are a number of themes common to annual family gatherings. Themes are often centered on the family name, homestead and heritage. Other themes may be closely tied to the activities of the event such as the following:

Traditional Themed Gathering
Genealogy Homestead Tour
Family Fest
Family Reunion Cruise
Living Legends Ball

Theme Based Event Planners

Some event planning applications feature theme based planning. Each theme comes with a pre-written itinerary, dinner program and activities we well as logos and even t-shirt and invitations designs.

Choose Family Reunion Theme Related Activities

Now that your theme is established you can better consider activities that would be appropriate for this special occasion. Typical activities may include a visit to the old homestead, luncheon program on the premises, family history recital, story time, presentation of family quilt or other heirloom, honoring of family elders. Some of these activities may be incorporated in a dinner program. If your throwing an outdoor event consider having a sing-a-thon, outdoor games or a bubble master bubble show.

Choose The Ideal location

Having established the theme and an outline of activities, choosing an ideal location should be much easier. The locations considered should allow for the enjoyment of most if not all activities listed.

Create Your Itinerary

Once the location is selected it is time to start putting together an itinerary of event. Create a simple list of activities and include the day and time each activity is scheduled.

Event Planning Apps

As said earlier, reunion planning software applications make theme selection and associated activities a whole lot easier. When looking for such as app choose one that provides a theme selector. Theme selectors guide you through the initial planning process by providing theme related activities, pre-written itinerary and luncheon/dinner programs. Other important features would include a timeline planner and attendee roster. Even better, select reunion planning apps that include a supplies and services list with a budget calculation feature. Event planning web apps like Fimark's Family Reunion Planner Social web app feature all the above suggestions along with detailed planning, organizing and management tips as well as printable templates, tools and guides.

So if you're struggling to come up with some fresh and creative ideas for your next reunion, start by selecting a family reunion theme and associated activities. That said, a reliable theme based reunion event planning application may be all that's needed to jump start your next fun filled family reunion event.

Need Help Planning Your Family Reunion?

Click the Fimark's Family Reunion Planner Social web app link found below this article.or visit

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Making Your Family History Documentary Movie

Having done my Family History Research I've accumulated quite a bit of data including video, photos, audio interviews, stories about the old days and music reminiscent of each era. And now it's time to bring it all together in presentation format.

Of the many ideas I've used to record family history one of the most enjoyable is family history documenting in photos and video. That said, I will make a documentary movie of my family history.
This lunch break project just keeps getting better.

While at first I considered attempting to pull this off from scratch using only ideas as they came to me, I later decided to take a more professional approach and learn from the masters of cinema. I closely studied a few well prepared family history documentaries presented by, and revisited some very touching interviews found at Using a few well chosen documentaries of study as a visual/audio template I will script write, direct and produce the movie in similar fashion.

The Script

Using my family history blog compilation which now reads like a biographical novel I will start writing a detailed script of narration dialogue starting from the earliest years of my families history and describe the land, work, political mood, daily routine and social events my ancestors enjoyed. I will gradually introduce the next generation from birth to adulthood describing the land,  daily routine, work, political and social events experienced by each generation up to the present.

Side notes and brackets will include the titles of background music that will be played and interview snippets I will insert along the way.

As I write the script I will predetermine directorial scenes as the following example shows:
Opening Scene - A low lit room as the camera slowly moves toward a vintage living room radio.
Sounds of the radio broadcasts of the day fill the room as the camera slowly sweeps toward framed photos on the mantel.

Audio Narration

As the camera turns toward and moves out of the window a panoramic scene of the bustling city  mothers parents settled into leads into audio narration that begins to tell the family story.

As the narration progresses we slide through photos taken of the houses my mother and father lived in as children complete with street signs and then we progress through images of them as a teenagers. Audio of my mother and father telling the story of how they met, dated, courted and wed takes over.

The number of interviews outlined in the script will translate into quite a bit of dialogue. Watching only the speaker through the entire interview could prove monotonous and downright tiresome. That said, while the interviewee is talking I'll add some breakaway scenes that are descriptive of the subject at hand.

As they talk about their courtship we see video segments of how life was in those days.
Scenes of a local ice cream parlor.
A couple sharing an ice cream soda.
A circus parading down the neighborhood
A television broadcast of a local baseball game or popular entertainer of the day.

Developing and Directing Scenes

When considering the kind of footage to shoot and add to the documentary it's best to start off with some specific ideas regarding location, setting and lighting. When shooting a scene I'll allow those involved to be as relaxed and natural as possible. In some cases I will just raise the camera and let them go about their activities.

I will use similar camera angles, locations, subjects and techniques as in my visual/audio documentary templates to capture the essence of the moment in time being described by the narrator and interviewees.  The following scenes and still life visuals are required for this documentary:

1. Nostalgic era photos such as my parents childhood home, activities growing up, and
their first home after marriage and the day to day activities we enjoyed as a family.
2. Nostalgic era video such as a horse and fruit carriage, a television baseball game, entertainers and other moving pictures of the day
3. Scenes of family gatherings
4. Scenes of weddings, births, showers and graduation
5. Video of feet walking toward destinations being discussed
6. Silhouettes of faces looking out windows
7. Movie segments with scenes similar to settings or situations being described
8. Hand turning through the pages of a family album
9. Hand opening a family keepsake booklet
10. Hands cooking at stove
11. Scenes of engineers using schematics, musicians writing and playing music, trolley drivers,  grocery managers talking to store clerks.

Most of these scenes are already in my Lunch Break Family History Research Files. I have photos and video of family gatherings, weddings, births, graduation, news reels and historic events, Other scenes I will have to develop and shoot myself.

Video Equipment

Much of my video footage can be shot using a smart phone camera or tablet. Consider using some royalty free photos and video where appropriate. Creative Commons licensed video can be found at

As I studied other documentaries I took note of specific desired scenes, music sequences, locations and photo stills I had the equipment and competence to reproduce in my movie.

My family history documentary movie is starting to take shape, life and form. I am pulling it all together using a simple video compiler like Windows Movie Maker.

Background Music

I will use varied genres of background music for interviews depending on the type of story the interviewee is telling. When I'm shooting a spirited bubbly interview I'll use upbeat background music. Something light and jazzy. When it is a more somber and reflective interview I'll use background music that dignifies the mood.

The script will step me through the entire process of documentary movie production from beginning to a bitter-sweet conclusion. Hope you're enjoying your Lunch Break Family History Research project.  Other fun family related projects can be found using Fimark's Family Reunion Planner Social web app. Click the link found below this blog post.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lunch Break Family History Project Research Part 3

In this third and final presentation of the Lunch Break Family History Project series, we consider some very specific ways to present those family history gems.  

Preparing Data For Family History Presentation

If you're copying and/or downloading information in appropriate files on your device or laptop as you go at some point you'll want to create one running file or eBook consisting of all useful content in your research depository in chronological order.  This can be put in your Chronological Compilation file. (See previous article in this three part series for more information on file structure.)  

Remember, each file you create or download and drop into your depository should have a chronological date designation in the file name such 1871_great_Illinois_migration or 1914_military_record. In addition you may wish to create sub-folders with year or period designations such as Civil War, or Post Civil War.  This will help you maintain chronological order when creating your presentation.

Online Presentations

You want to maintain a compilation of research that has been validated as an authentic part of your family history archives. One of the best ways to link and structure your notes, records, video and photos is using by way of a blog. The records can be linked and structured and presented in a very attractive way. Blogs have advanced to social application like Google Plus and Facebook and made more interactive using features like Hangouts and such.

Creative Presentations

Next consult your presentation ideas file for creative ways to present your research offline. Presentations can be in the form of a display table, wall chart, decorative photo compilation complete with notes and news clippings or some other presentation form like video. For imaginative genealogy presentation ideas visit our Fimark Genealogy Presentation Awards pages at....

Explore all free family history/genealogy resources available online at
Don't hesitate to arrange a family event where family history presentations can be put on display. November is Family Reunion Planning Month. For fascinating and engaging Annual Family Reunion Planning Month observation ideas read our blog post

Lunch Break Family History Research Project Part 2

Your Lunch Break Family History Research Project is about to embark on a fascinating journey. There are many ways to perform family history research online. Start by researching the family surname spellings, meaning and origins. Remember to focus on the genealogy definition. Document surname origins and map out your origin destinations. The land(s) from which your family came.  If you run into a roadblock look up marriage certificates, divorce records, death records, cemetaries and military records. A final resort would be DNA records.

It's recommended that you keep your research findings in a depository on your mobile device or laptop computer.  If you prefer to write on paper consider using a notebook as well as research forms ideal for PDF notation or printing paper compilations that will help you keep your research organized and in logical order. Many of these forms (in MS Word .doc format) can be downloaded for free at

If your research becomes location specific consider looking up family history blogs using specific locations and all versions of your family surname.

Fascinating Journey

Now lets make things more interesting. So you found out your ancestors migrated from another state,  country or continent? Visit researched destinations online. Discover the layout of the land, culture and the social and political climate of their day. Want to dig deeper? Need more details? If your research gradually becomes more ethnic, culture and race specific, for example African American, Jewish or Irish, a good place to continue your search might be or

Signing up to web sites like and may reveal more about your origins from several interesting angles much of which may already by compiled for your examination by other family researchers.

Take Your Time

Give yourself a day at the library or Family History Center, ask a relative those burning family history questions you've always wondered about and start collecting photos, recording audio/video interviews while taking notes of each family members story.

Family History Compilation

When doing family history research it's important to take notes as you go. Your notes would include the following:
Your research objects and findings
All web sites visited
Objectives and findings from the visit
Next task, approach and results
Copy, download or links to useful content, documents, research tools, etc.

Research Depository

Create a depository in the form of a Hierarchical filing system. Your main folder can be titled Surname_History where Surname is the last name of the family you are researching. You may need to create sub-folders for various spelling versions of that surname. You may also need sub-folder for dated materials such as Civil War records or Post Civil War research. Files that are specific to dates can be dated by year, for example: 1871_migration or 1948_migration.

Name folders as follow:

1. Notes
2. Articles
3. Photos
4. Video
5. Presentation Ideas
6. Chronological Compilation
7. Presentation
8. Misc

This evening look for our final article in this Lunch Break Family History Research series we'll discuss how to create family history presentations online using s blog and eBook application, presentations on DVD, research paper compilations and how to find other creative genealogy research presentation ideas from Fimark's Genealogy Presentation Awards.