A Word From The Show’s Creator

If you’re reading this, you know the importance of family and like you, I look forward to our annual reunion. Our gathering is held the third weekend in July. While social networking keeps us connected, there’s nothing like seeing, hugging and spending time with your family. It’s the one time of year when I know that my soul and spirit will be replenished by people who have a genuine love for one another. Over our three-day reunion, we not only celebrate with fun activities, including a fish fry, barbecue cook off, and talent show, to name a few, we also honor the two people who, without them, we wouldn’t exist.

Our family’s love story began in 1948 between Arthur Lewis and Zula Lewis. They were sharecroppers in Louisiana. They didn’t have much. But they were rich in love and shared it with their 14 children. My great grandparents stressed the importance of the family staying connected. Arthur had one wish on his death bed – to continue hosting the annual Lewis Family Reunion.  It’s been going strong since 1962.  We used to host the reunion at the family compound in Monterrey, Louisiana, but now it’s held in a different city across the country. For the second time, I, along with my mother, Arthur and Zula’s grandchild, helped plan, organize and host the reunion in Indianapolis.

As a television anchor, I was asked by Ancestry.com to participate in one of ten national stories that traced the ancestral roots of local reporters. I supplied Ancestry.com with what I knew about my family tree on my mother’s side.  About two months later, I found myself in Louisiana with Ancestry.com’s lead genealogist Anastasia Harman to retrace the steps of my ancestors and learn more about where I came from. It was a life-changing event. I found out the names of my great great grandparents on a marriage license dated December 25, 1879.

I shared the information with my family once I returned to Indiana and began to put together a two-part story that aired on my station. I was asked to share the new findings during our annual family reunion and that’s when the fireworks lit up the sky! The experience set into motion what I believe people want to view on television – ordinary people with extraordinary stories about their ancestors and how it brings more meaning to their lives during one of the most meaningful times of their lives – their annual reunion where together they celebrate the past, the present and the future of their family.

I framed the marriage certificate of my great great grandparents. It’s positioned on the wall of my home for all to see when they enter. It’s a conversation piece that gives me an opportunity to share their story of struggle and survival and against all odds, raised a family that stands today with great achievements because of their sacrifice. Obviously, I never met them, but I know the x marked next to their names breathed faith and perserverance into all the generations that would come after them. Their spirits live on in me and all of the members of the Lewis Family. We are − because of them.

During the challenging times of everyday life I find encouragement every time I look at the marriage license and other framed historical documents provided to me by Ancestry.com. I also find encouragement every time I look into the eyes of my grandmother Albertina Lewis Dawkins. She’s 84 years-old. I’ll never forget what she said when she saw the license for the first time with tears streaming down her face: “I had a grandmother. I had a grandmother!”  The idea of having a grandmother is no longer a mystery. Now she knows her name.

Our lives have been forever changed by the experience. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your life will be enriched too when you experience how other families across our country and the world celebrate family! Thanks to Ancestry.com, your family tree may grow too! The stories of my ancestors are ready to be told.  What’s your story?