Searching and Creating Databases for Reunions
Where does a reunion planner begin?
If you have been tasked with organizing a class or a family reunion, you might discover that databases are incredibly helpful tools in this process. You can search existing databases to reach long-lost relatives, or to find classmates with whom you haven’t been in contact in a long time. And you can create your own databases which attendees will be able to search, databases with information about everyone who plans to attend the reunion.
You might wish to employ an Internet service which, for a reasonable fee, will do your searching for you. For example, ClassQUEST allows reunion organizers to locate the whereabouts of hard-to-find classmates. ClassQUEST, founded in 1999, says that in its storehouse of information are billions of individual records – so many records, in fact, that even police investigators occasionally use the service to find people. Searching a ClassQUEST database, or any database similar to it, is a simple process. What it usually entails is that you send them everything you know about a certain person you’re looking for, and two to four days later they will send you a file containing that person’s address, current name and phone number, or, if applicable, information about that person’s death. And you can automatically save this information on a spreadsheet file for later use.
Once you’ve found all the information on potential attendees that you can, you can finalize your own searchable database. Before you publish anyone’s personal info on your database, however, you’ll probably want to get their permission. Send a group email or message via social media, and make some phone calls if you have to, requesting this permission. (By the way, it usually makes things more efficient if you set up an email account specifically for the purposes of planning the reunion.) In these messages, you can also ask people to fill in any of the informational gaps you might have. If you’re especially ambitious, you might even ask everyone to send you recent photos of themselves and/or their families.
So what specific kinds of information should you include in the reunion database or directory that you develop? Possible items include:
- people’s first and last names at the time they graduated
- the current names of everyone who’s changed theirs over the years
- attendees’ current addresses – or if you don’t want to include addresses, you might supply just the city and state in which people now live
- email addresses
- Twitter handles
- attendees’ careers and the companies for which they work.
- a special “in memoriam” list of dearly departed classmates or relatives.
It helps if each of your database’s categories is searchable, too. If someone were an engineer, for example, she or he might want to use the keyword ‘engineer’ to find other classmates who are engineers. This information helps people do some networking at their reunion, in addition to having fun.
You don’t need advanced programming skills or expensive tools to create such a database, either. A Microsoft Excel workbook or similar program will do just fine, especially if you want to keep your database simple and easy to peruse. Once it’s complete, you can post this workbook on your official reunion website, and a link to it on a Facebook page or other social media pages devoted to the reunion. Use your group email and social media accounts to let people know about the database’s existence, too, so that they can learn as much about their classmates as they want to before they show up at the reunion. This information should really help get some conversations started!
As a final piece of advice, you might save a version of this database on your computer. On your personal version, however, you can add an additional column next to the column of names. You can use this column to keep track of who’s already paid for the reunion and who hasn’t paid yet!