Family Photo Game at Christmas

Goldie Helen, Louise & Fred Roesner.

Goldie Helen, Louise & Fred Roesner.

Another Christmas has come and gone. Most families, large or small, get together this time of year and our families are no exception. We hosted a Christmas dinner for my immediate Miller family, a small group. We also hosted the annual Christmas gathering for the Bennetts, Joe’s siblings and their children and grandchildren. This is a larger group, between 17-24 depending on who can attend.

I racked my brain this year to come up with something different to do during the time between eating and opening presents at the Bennett gathering. They like to play games so I wanted to have something that involved thinking, guessing and some good old family competition.

I came up with an idea that involved old and not so old family photos shown in a slide show. I hoped the younger ones would enjoy looking at photos of past holidays as well as photos of grandparents and relatives that they never knew. Some of the photos were over 100 years old and showed the great-great-great-grandparents of the youngest children here. Who knows what could spark an interest in genealogy. Photos are also good prompts for sharing memories and learning new things about family history.

This is how we played the game: We divided the younger generations into two groups. Our generation, the “older” generation, would recognize most of the photos, so we not actively involved in the competition. But we were there to add details and memories.

The photos were in a slide show on my netbook, which we connected to the TV for ease of viewing. For the baby photos the contestants were to guess the person. For group photos they were to guess the date and place the photo was taken. For the oldest photos, those from the early 1900s, I identified the people and explained their relationship to the family.

Family members learned that some of their Bennett ancestors were named after U.S. states and territories:

The Henry Brandenburg Bennett family: Vermont, Goldsby Alaska, Dakota, Arizona, Delaware. Seated: Nevada, Henry Brandenburg Bennett, Sarah (Milligan), Minnesota.

The Henry Brandenburg Bennett family: Vermont, Goldsby Alaska, Dakota, Arizona, Delaware. Seated: Nevada, Henry Brandenburg Bennett, Sarah (Milligan), Minnesota.

Happily, the slide show was a success. Everyone enjoyed seeing the oldest photos as well as photos of themselves and their parents as little children. It was fun (sometimes funny) to look at past holiday photos and see how everyone had changed over the years.

The children saw photos of grandparents they never knew. It was a time to reminisce and comment on past family events. It was also very interesting to notice family resemblances, passed on from earlier generations.

The photo game turned out to be a lot of fun. Perhaps it even created an interest in genealogy for some family members.





  1. At a family reunion several years ago, people were invited to bring old photos and unkown family connections to a bulletin board set up for the lunch gathering. It was a very stimulating and rewarding exchange as folks collectively discussed the memories as well as sharing their knowledge of people, events and information. It certainly helped pull everyone together with a strong recognition of common and shared past. It is amazing how it feels to have someone unexpectedly get excited and recall events and people from your past in a very personal context.

    1. Great idea! Our families also like to look at old family photos at reunions. It is always exciting when someone can identify folks in those old photos.

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