A Hungarian Family Reunion

[Editor’s note: Lisa Milner discusses her experiences attending a large family reunion.]

Last year I attended a huge family reunion in Minnesota and had a blast! Thinking back on this trip, here’s how I used my Flip-Pal mobile scanner to scan all of the old, one of a kind, pictures provided by family members and then shared them.

There are several ways for families to be informed of an upcoming reunion. While many of us still love receiving invitations in the mail, 270 invitations were snail mailed and 147 were sent to emails, plus a website was set up a year before the reunion with information about this reunion. The invitations went out two years in advance, with 3 additional reminders, since the goal was to get participants to “save the date” and RSVP quickly so that the reunion planning could proceed.

In the end, more than 600 family members from Canada and the United States attended the reunion! While most family reunions take place in a backyard or a park, with so many family members attending the reunion it was held in an elementary school and the surrounding grounds. The oldest attendee was 84 and the youngest was born just a week earlier.


This was only the second Rotz-Hipsag family reunion ever held, the first being 1985. However, the 2012 reunion was significant because it marked the centenary of the arrival of Elizabeth Rotz, the wife of John Rotz, in Elk River, Minnesota, in the spring of 1912. Born in Adony, Feher County, Hungary on August 14, 1902, John Rotz emigrated with his mother, four sisters, and a brother during the spring of 1912. They joined their father John, the family patriarch, who had emigrated in 1907 and had settled in Elk River in the fall of 1911. The money that Elizabeth brought to America was subsequently used to buy workhorses.

The Photo Hunt

I took pictures off the wall, out of cardboard boxes and pictures in photo frames and started scanning them at the kitchen table. After the reunion, the Hipsag side of the family met at the family farm in Elk River to continue the celebration. As family members watched me scanning photos, they all requested copies of one image and then another. In no time, I had quite a list of requests.

While I was scanning I sat with Aunt Sandi, one of the reunion organizers, who helped me identify people and places in the photos. With this valuable information, I was able to add notes about each of the photos by writing on the clear acrylic sketch sheet that comes with the Flip-Pal Sketch Kit, and then laying the sheet over the photo before scanning (without marking the pictures). I labeled who was in each picture, where the picture was taken and the date the photo was taken. After the initial scan with the notes, I then scanned the originals (without the Sketch Kit) to obtain a clean digital image. I then had scans of each original photo with and without annotations.

Post-Reunion Follow-up

After scanning 224 photos that afternoon and a collecting a tablet full of names and addresses of who wanted copies of the pictures, I joined the rest of the family in their celebration. But I wasn’t finished with my project. Aunt Sandi called me a few weeks later and said that she was putting together some follow-up information to post on the reunion website. That’s where my scanned images would be placed for other family members to later download at their convenience.

With so many family members waiting to get their hands on the scanned images, I got busy using the EasyStitch software (which is included with the scanner) to merge partial scans into whole images. Next, I used Photoshop Elements to crop, straighten and enhance the colors. This took quite some time since many of the pictures had faded.

Once finished, I sent my final project off to Aunt Sandi in October and provided several DVDs to family members who aren’t computer savvy.

Here’s more about the family as well as pictures from the reunion.

From Dairy Farms to Gravel Mines book

From Dairy Farms to Gravel Mines:
A History of Sherburne County’s Hungarian Community

by Elizabeth Belanger

Elizabeth Belanger

Author, Betty Belanger, July 13, 2012

Rotz Family Farm

John Rotz, Betty Belanger’s grandfather, bought land west of what is now Highway 169 near Elk River, Minnesota. While it is now a gravel mine and the outbuildings are gone, the home is still occupied by one of the descendants. There is only one large aerial photo of the farm. So I scanned the picture in nine sections and then stitched the smaller images into one larger image. The entire family loves this photo because it brings back such wonderful memories.

Tribe Shirts

Each family had their own colored T-shirts with their family name, which helped us find our pack.

Hall with Family History Slide Show

On the screen at the far end of the school’s cafeteria, a 172 page slideshow of the history of the families, pictures, etc. played in a continuous loop.

Family Tree Wall Charts

One idea for planning your next family reunion: send a Flip-pal mobile scanner to the event organizers so they can scan their old photos. Then instruct them to send the Flip-Pal to others on the team. When it returns to the original organizer, with the SD card full of scans, they can then easily create a slideshow or video to post to the reunion website or Facebook.

John Rotz SR

The family patriarch, John Rotz, Sr.

This portrait hung on the wall at the reunion. It took 32 scans to fully capture the image. I then stitched the individual scans together using the Easy Stitch software. Now, everyone wants a copy for their own family albums and scrapbooks.

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