“We get to hug and talk about old times, and nothing beats old times,” beams Warlener Hughley when speaking of her family’s annual reunion.
This past weekend, about 150 members of the extended Huguely Family gathered in Richmond and Berea for their 65th Huguely Family Reunion. The full slate of activities included a picnic at Lake Reba, a visit to the Doylesville Family Cemetery, a tour of the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea and an outing to Galaxy Bowling in Richmond. To cap off the weekend, family members met at the Black Box Theater at the EKU Center for the Arts for a reception with dinner and dancing.
The Huguely Family Tree
The Huguely family comprises 13 branches, each descended from the children of Richmond natives Matthew Huguely and Amie Keene. These original ancestors were born in 1829 and 1830, respectively. Matthew’s brother and Amie’s niece are also counted in the family tree.
Kenneth Cobb has served in the role of Huguely family historian since 1997. In 2014, while also serving as reunion president, he did a major overhaul of the website to ensure accurate census information and family trees and much more. He continues to keep the family reunion website up-to-date and truly believes in the importance of honoring their ancestors.
Their reunion website includes bimonthly newsletters that highlight recent achievements of family members, as well as notable events such as births, marriages and deaths.
Organization of the Family Reunion
This family reunion is painstakingly organized and has utilized an executive board for many years. The executive committee usually meets twice a year to plan upcoming reunions.
Current reunion president Sandra Ballew-Barnes says that the reunion site is chosen at least a year in advance. Hotels and banquet facilities must be reserved, plus additional activities planned. Many family members still reside in Madison County, but some traveled for the occasion from locations like Baltimore, Atlanta or as far as California.
Dues are paid by each family to help fund the reunion events themselves, as well as to support ongoing higher education scholarships. Any family member in college with a satisfactory GPA is eligible for scholarship money.
Ballew-Barnes recalls having rarely missed a reunion in her lifetime.
“My dad made sure the reunion was a priority for our family,” she said.
Years ago, they were held primarily in Madison County and only one day long. Attendance was quite a bit larger in those days, sometimes close to 500 people in all.
“Everyone would bring food for the picnic, and it would be all these tables of home-cooked food,” Ballew-Barnes said.
Reunions can be somewhat bittersweet, Ballew-Barnes remarked.
“Because of the loved ones that have gone on, you miss seeing them and talking to them about past life experiences and reunions," she said. "Social media keeps us somewhat more informed...but it is important that we still gather as a family and get to love on each other, and reconnect from the previous year.”
At Saturday’s reception, one of the eldest family members, Warlener Hughley, said “everybody’s proud of the family reunion.” She emphasized how valuable she feels it is for young people today to know their family history, and the reunion helps accomplish that. “I look forward to it every year,” she added.
Warlener’s son, Gerry Hughley, noted that there have been four different spellings of the family name over the years, but they’re all part of the family. He is proud of the long tradition their family enjoys, saying of their nearly 200-year ancestry, “Not many African-American families can trace their roots back so far.”
One of the reunion’s younger attendees, 13-year-old Dominique Riley of Atlanta, was given the honor of leading the Pledge of Allegiance at Saturday’s banquet. She said that she met a lot of cousins and had a lot of fun over the weekend.
Margaret Moran, another older member of the Huguely clan, beamed with pride at the respect young people have for this reunion.
“It’s just a joy, especially seeing young folks coming along, and I hope they continue this legacy," she said.