This winter has been a long one for us family history researchers. Finally, finally, the trees and the grass are starting to get green. Spring flowers are up, gardens are being planned, and this Record Click genealogist’s summer calendar is starting to get penciled in. Some of my favorite vacations and weekend trips have included family history research – often because family ancestor searches take me to someplace new. I’ve seen some things I never could have imagined without my family history research and tasted some very fine local wines. A good vacation is multi-dimensional, after all.
The first thing a family history researcher needs to do when planning a genealogy search vacation is to pick an ancestor from the family tree. He or she doesn’t have to be a direct line – some kind of aunt, uncle or cousin is fine. I’ve even gone looking for information on a child adopted by one of my husband’s ancestors.
The next thing for the family history researcher to do online, in an atlas or by word of mouth, is to find out about the area where the ancestor lived. What museums, historical societies, libraries and courthouses are there? What are the days and hours that they are open? In larger cities and towns, the entities usually have longer hours and are staffed. Now, even some of what would be considered smaller historical societies and county museums are hiring a director or curator. If the hours are not convenient or unknown, don’t be afraid to track someone down. A clerk at the courthouse or city hall may be able to help. As tempting as a computer may be, call and try to make an appointment. These are the people who usually know the community best. Check out the Chamber of Commerce web site. It might provide information on the local museums, churches and libraries. Family history researcher: take an interest in the area. There is a lot that can be learned. On an adopted child family history research trip, my husband and I stopped in at the birthplace of Mamie Doud Eisenhower (no relation whatsoever) in Boone, Iowa. Her family was active in the community and the stop gave us insight into Boone, Iowa’s history. Research materials were available to help with my family history research and a knowledgeable docent was more than willing to answer our questions related to my genealogy search in Iowa.
Genealogy is more than names, dates and charts. A family history research vacation is more than a computer and an itinerary. And age has its perks. One of the best bargains around is the National Park Service Senior Pass. Available for those 62 and older, my $10 pass (they are more expensive by mail) allows me and up to three family members or friends entrance to any national park. This includes over 400 national parks, military parks, historical parks, lakeshores, monuments, memorials, recreation areas, scenic trails and seashores. The parks provide information relevant to the family history researcher with insight on immigrants and Indians, soldiers and scientists, homesteaders and presidents. They provide an opportunity for a family history researcher to learn or relax. The pass is permanent and, unless lost or run through the wash, doesn’t have to be replaced.
So, family history researcher, set a goal. Pick a missing piece or two of information. It could be a courthouse record that is not online. Churches are good. If the ancestral church is active, attend a service there. A long lost cousin or someone who knows the family may be found. Walk a cemetery. As wonderful as the FindAGrave volunteers have been, they do miss or don’t look at all sides of a tombstone. An obelisk may have the information for several individuals on it. Burial information could also be at the courthouse or city hall. Stop by the mortuary. Find out the history of the morticians in the area.
Take time, family history researcher. This is a vacation after all. Keep distances in mind. Cities and towns in many areas are just a few miles apart. Sometimes, however, a road winding through hills and valleys making the drive just a little longer. West of “The Missouri” distances become greater. Towns are smaller and further apart and a drive from once place to another can take hours rather than a few minutes. The western states are big states.
Mingle with the local residents. Eat at a local café or restaurant. Some are surprisingly good, and most have a specialty. Order it. Check for local industries. A factory in a small town up the road from me makes some good cheese. Is there a bed and breakfast close by? This can be a nice change from a hotel and many hosts are very knowledgeable of the area. Stay an extra day or two.
Finally, look around. There are the usual sources for you, family history researcher. What is unique about the city or town? Has it grown, stayed the same, or is it worn around the edges? Why? Does the ancestral home in your family tree search still exist? How far was it from shopping, school and church? Is there some place special in your family tree search that played a part in the life of the family?
I like to find the property where my ancestors in my family tree searches lived. It gives me an idea of their neighborhood, the parks where children might have played, the stores where they might have shopped, the churches where they worshiped and the schools where education changed the course of so many lives. Family history researchers can also look for fraternal societies such as the Masons, International Order of Odd Fellows or Sons of Norway that my family may have been involved in.
So you saved, planned, and taken your genealogy vacation. Now what? The expert family history researchers at RecordClick can organize your findings, create your own family tree search book and make a book of your holiday. We can advise you on the next leg of your genealogical searcj and look for the lost pieces of your family history research puzzle.