Dozens of families from all across Canada, the United States and as far away as Italy came together in South Range for the first Andrew Thomas Reunion.
Sheila Thomas, organizer for the reunion, says nearly 150 Andrews and Thomas descendants converged at the
Johnston’s Christian Park in South Range to meet at their family roots on Aug. 10-12.
Thomas said the idea to bring the two families together evolved from the North Range and Bloomfield ‘Back to Your Roots’ community reunion in 2005.
“This was a huge community event with over 300 people attending and families gathered because of their roots,” said Thomas. “John Andrews Sr. and Johnson Turner Thomas, who were born in the 1830’s, along with their descendants were part of the backbone of these communities.”
Over the years many of Andrews and Thomas families who moved away would come home during the summer and there would be family gatherings but never a reunion, Thomas explained.
Thomas, having married into the Andrews and Thomas family, was interested in the genealogy and thought she would like to have a reunion for the two families.
The main goal of the organized reunion was for people to meet at their family roots, reconnect with relatives they hadn’t seen in years and become acquainted with new family members.
Planning began in 2009 with Thomas contacting immediate family members to tell them she was going to proceed with the 2012 reunion and several people were approached to form a committee.
Thomas said the response to the idea was excellent and she was not surprised that families committed to the reunion because so many were delighted it was going to happen.
“I was overwhelmed by the distance people were willing to travel especially Arianna (Andrews) and Claudio Ginocchiette from Perugia, Italy,” she said. “It gave the reunion an international flair and I was very pleased that they were able to come as well as Arianna’s parents Vian and Joan Andrews of Vancouver.”
For Andrews the reunion gave his family a sense of roots as they met so many of his relatives.
Vian Andrews was born in Digby but moved to Toronto with his family when he was three.
Andrews said he spent a memorable summer with his grandmother, Euella Andrews of North Range, when he was 11, and was later able to renew contact with his relatives when he returned to North Range for a visit in 1981.
When plans for the Andrews Thomas Reunion began Andrews said he knew he wanted to come home.
“All my life I felt a powerful connection to this place. (North Range),” Andrews said. “This reunion gave me the opportunity to reconnect to the Andrews family and to introduce my family to them.”
Although Andrews and his family committed themselves to the reunion he did not know if all of them would be able to come.
“Arianna and her husband, Claudio, had just started new jobs so they felt the trip was out of the question,” he said. “But Arianna’s mother-in-law told them they must go as it was a once in a life time opportunity.”
Andrews says this reunion, a smaller family reunion in Boston where his wife is from as well as their own immediate time together would complete the picture.
Ginocchiette said the Andrews Thomas Reunion was a good time in the collective lives of her family.
“Our family is spread all over the globe and here we were coming together and meeting at the family roots half way between British Columbia and Italy.” she said.
For Claudio Ginocchiette the reunion was a total experience as it was his first time in Nova Scotia and the first time participating in a family reunion.
“To have more than 150 people come together for a weekend was huge,” Ginocchiette said. “It was a nice way to keep connected and get back to your roots.”
While many attending the reunion came from the local area, it was Gary and Ruth Sabean who travelled the least distance living three houses down the road from the park.
The reunion brought in family members of all ages said Thomas.
“On the Andrews side it was Donald Andrews Armstrong from Granville Beach who was the oldest at 97 and on the Thomas side Katherine Levings was the youngest at five months old”.
Special guest speaker was Luella Hicks Marshall a local genealogist who encouraged families to maintain their roots.
Thomas said she was pleased with how the reunion came together and was overwhelmed by the response of those attending.