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Family celebrates unity with extensive family reunion

Genealogical research will be filed with Library of Congress

Genealogical research will be filed with Library of Congress

August 10, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HALFWAY - Ron Russ was "born to grill."

On Saturday, the 60-year-old Hagerstown man found himself doing a lot of it at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park on Saturday for his family's large family reunion.

His wife, Judy, already did her part for the Russ and Burnett family reunion, baking from 9 a.m. Thursday night to 4 a.m., Friday.

"(She) baked 45 cakes," Russ said. "We were up all night."

Carrot, spice, butter pecan, red velvet, yellow, white, chocolate - she baked, sliced and racked them, he said.

For a reunion of two large families - with relatives from Massachusetts to Georgia and many points in between - the 26 racks of conveniently plated cake was necessary.

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"We don't have a shortage of people," Russ said as hundreds of family members ate hamburgers, hot dogs, Italian sausage, fried chicken and many of the traditional fixings that come with a reunion. There were 400 door prizes and games for the kids. Name tags were typed and family members checked in at a registration tent where they were given a plastic wrist band and door prize ticket. Brightly colored plastic Hawaiian leis were optional.

"It's run like a business," Russ said of the monthly meetings by a committee of 13 family members that is chaired by his sister, Lesley Smith, who said this year's theme was "celebrating unity."

"We know what we're going to do for the next two years," Smith said.

"We do all the cookin'," said Smith, who said the reunion combined gatherings held for both families for the first time this year. She expected 500 people to come to the park by the time it was over Saturday evening.

"I'm drained," Smith said. "I am drained."

Family historian Charles H. French said the African-American families have traced their roots back to Fauquier County, Va,. and James Samuel French, who was born there in 1823.

"A lot slaves kept their owners' name," French said.

Now, most of French's descendants reside in the Hagerstown area, said French, who resides in Fort Washington, Md.

Smith earlier announced to those gathered that the 22 pages of genealogy French had compiled would be filed with the Library of Congress.

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