When Albert Love’s brother died in New York two years ago a blizzard closed air travel up and down the eastern seaboard.
“We couldn’t get out, we couldn’t fly in and we couldn’t drive,” the Rev. Love remembers.
Linwood Love was laid to rest without the presence of some of his closest family members.
“We never had closure as far as our brother was concerned. We felt guilty about that.”
On Memorial Day weekend, the descendants of John Edward Love of Durham, NC, held the first Love Family Reunion in East Point. At a memorial service at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the Atlanta airport, the Love Family was finally able to say goodbye to Linwood.
“That really meant a lot to us,” said the Rev. Love, pastor of Boat Rock Baptist Church.
Charlene Love, Albert’s neice, said the first Love Family Reunion came off without a major hitch. Some 30 family members said they would attend and all did. Charlene and her husband Herb hosted a lunch at their home in Stone Mountain on the final day of the reunion. Their daughter Teresa Love designed the reunion logo.
Charlene was especially pleased to see young family members show interest in their ancestry.
“It was delightful to see them share stories with each other. I always think that young people are going to be like, ugh, why am I here, but they really weren’t. They really were interested in what people are saying, what grandpa did or what cousin so-and-so did, and how people interacted with each other.”
“We had first cousins who didn’t really know each other before,” the Rev. Love said.
By the final day of the reunion the family was quite comfortable with each other, telling jokes, sharing stories, taking naps, and gathering around the grill as Herb cooked.
The reunion brought a few pleasant surprises, too.
“We took the group on a tour of Atlanta in a bus driven by my nephew Brian Love. We visited the Atlanta University Center, Philips Arena where the Hawks play, and the King Center. When we were passing Ebenezer Baptist Church, the congregation was just getting out. There was Mrs. Christine King Farris crossing the street, the sister of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We stopped the bus and asked her if we could have a picture and she said yes. The family really got a charge out of it,” the Rev. Love said.
Albert Love’s wife, Juanita, spent years researching her Brooks and Sneed family trees. She remembers seeing a Creecy, a Creola and several other similar names, like Cee Cee. After years of pouring through microfilm and handwritten journals in courthouses in North Carolina she discovered that Creola, Cheecy and Cee Cee were the same person, her great grandmother.
“That was the crowning glory,” she said.
Genealogical research in black families is complicated by the slave years, partly because written records are incomplete, and partly because oral histories were rare.
“The generation that was born into slavery did not talk about slavery after it was over,” Juanita said.
Juanita’s families have been holding reunions since the 1960s. More than 100 relatives will attend this year’s reunions in Youngstown, OH, and Frankinton, NC.
Family Reunion = Big Business
The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau has 65 family reunions on its books this year with each reunion bringing about 100 visitors to Atlanta, said Charles Jeffers, senior vice president. The majority of the reunions take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day and last two to four days.
The convention bureau provides planning tools such as periodic family reunion workshops and how-to guides.
“ACVB staff works alongside planners to ensure a successful family reunion by providing assistance with everything from hotel selection to itinerary suggestions to group discounts,” Jeffers said.
Jeffers is also the ACVB director of sales and marketing for East Point and said hotels in that city, near the Atlanta airport, offer reunion package prices, event space and free shuttles.
Contact Charles Jeffers of ACVB