CHARLESTON, W.Va. - They came to the United States from Lebanon starting in 1894, wanting to escape the religious intolerance in the Ottoman Empire.
Four first cousins were the first to arrive. More family members would follow, though sometimes months and years separated families on the journey.
They became proud citizens of the United States and began making their way as entrepreneurs and professionals. Early on, the large extended family also was determined to remember its roots and began gathering once a year, usually around the Fourth of July, for a reunion.
In 1928, the family got organized about it and formed the Rashid Club of America, with dues and officers and even a designated charity. The first reunions took place near Detroit, where much of the family had settled. Those reunions are still the largest, drawing 400 or more family members.
But as years went on and family members moved to other states, including West Virginia, the reunions also traveled. One year when it was held in Washington, D.C., then-President Jimmy Carter invited the family to the White House for brunch.
This year, more than 250 descendants of the Rashid family were registered to attend the 85th Rashid Family Reunion in Charleston. Local families include the Rashids, the Gannons, the Hamras, the Farhas, the Salamies and the Hendrickses. But the annual T-shirt printed as a commemorative souvenir includes an elaborate family tree with dozens of names.
"I hope we haven't left anyone off," said Dr. Richard Rashid, who grew up in Montgomery when his father, Mitchell, brought his butchering trade to West Virginia from Michigan.
The reunion has some well-established traditions: a Mass, good food, dancing and souvenirs including the yearly commemorative panoramic family photograph.
Richard Rashid's niece, Georgette George, said back in the days of film photography and the slow exposure time required for the photo, some relative always tried to be in the photo twice, racing from the left side of the gathering to the right as the camera panned the group.
The Charleston families hosting this year's event ramped up the fun with social media this year.
The family has a Twitter account, a website and Facebook and Pinterest pages - all of which encourage the younger generation to stay in touch. (Follow the fun by checking out Twitter hashtags #85Rashid and #Rashid.) Indeed, George's 12-year-old daughter, Francesca, keeps up with cousins by texting, Facebook and Instagram.
Richard Rashid said the family includes many businessmen, businesswoman and professionals, all who were encouraged to work hard and take advantage of this country's education system.
"For a lot of them, it's their only family vacation of the year," he said.