Thursday, April 21, 2011

History and Roots Travel

One of the most important things to do when you are starting to plan your roots travel is to pick up a history book.

If you really want to connect with your ancestors, you will want to be able to understand the world they lived in. You can do that through history books, newspapers of the day, etc. However you read your history, it is vital that you understand both local and world history.

Try to look for anything that might have affected your ancestors. Was there a flood that year in the neighborhood? Who was president and what policies were in place that might have affected your ancestors? What businesses advertised in the newspaper? Is it possible your ancestor frequented them? What was going on in the world?

By understanding the world your ancestors lived in, you will better understand your ancestors. You might find places that are still around that were around when your ancestor lived. You will find differences and similarities to our time. Those differences and similarities will become the framework for your travel, as you try to understand the world your ancestor lived, grew up, and died in.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Planning a Research Trip

So you want to go on a research trip? Whether you plan on going by plane, train, or automobile, a successful research trip requires pre-planning.

If you are going to an archive or library, you will want to check the online catalog before you go and write down the call numbers of the records you plan on accessing. While you are at it, also make a note of the opening hours--you wouldn't want to show up when they are closed.

Make sure you have a plan written out. A research plan makes it much more likely that you will stay on task and find what you are looking for.

If you are planning on visiting churches and cemeteries, check the opening hours and make sure you have mapped out how to get to them. You don't want to spend any time getting lost when you have limited time available to you.

Take a camera with you in case you need to photograph the records you find. A magnifying glass for old records is also often recommended.

Check out's page on Genealogy Trips and Vacations for a great list of to-dos before your trip. They have tips for a variety of types of research vacations.

With the right planning, you can have a successful research trip. It is all about planning. The more you put into your trip beforehand, the more successful you will be.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Making the Most of Your Family Reunion

So you have a family reunion coming up? Have you thought about how you are going to make the most of it?

Family reunions are a great way to do roots travel, as I wrote in an earlier post. Whether the family reunion takes place somewhere exotic or at the park just down the road, you should be prepared to make the most of the reunion.

Here are a few things you can do:
  • Take a tape recorder or a camcorder to interview an older relative. You never know when your next chance to interview them might be. Make sure you are ready with lots of great questions that will elicit interesting conversation.

  • Have everyone write a one page history of themselves. You provide the paper and pens and let them do the rest. Then, put everyone's responses together in a binder or create a book.

  • Prepare a list of research needs for your genealogy and distribute it to everyone. Ask if anyone is interested in helping you out in your research. You might be surprised who volunteers or who has more information that you need.

  • Make the reunion fun with games and activities that will have people coming back to future reunions. For example, have a talent show, tape it, then distribute DVDs after the reunion.

  • Make t-shirts for everyone. This is pretty common for family reunions. And did you know that Family Roots Travel does designs and t-shirts for family reunions? Contact Family Roots Travel for more information.
These are only a few tips. There are hundreds of things you can do to make your family reunion great. But with these tips and the proper planning, you can make a family reunion a source of great information, family togetherness, and most of all fun. Whether the reunion is on a cruise or at a park, you will learn more about your family, and that is what roots travel is all about.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cemeteries and Roots Travel

If you are like me, you enjoy looking through the cemetery on your roots travel, hoping to find the grave of an ancestor. The search can be incredibly exciting when you find the gravestone you are looking for, or it can be vaguely disappointing if you don't find what you are looking for.

My favorite memory from a cemetery was when I found an ancestor's grave from the early 1800s in a cemetery in Linlithgow, Scotland. I was searching around the cemetery when I came upon the grave of Mary Glenn. I couldn't believe my eyes. But there it was, and the death date matched. I took a photograph and some video. Then, as I walked back to the car, people were coming out of the church, the men dressed in kilts. Apparently there had been a christening that morning.

I thought about Mary Glenn. Most likely she attended that church and may have been christened there (all I had with me was the names and dates of death). It was humbling to think I might be walking the same ground my ancestor did so long ago. I had touched the gravestone, and in doing so I touched a piece of my personal history.

The roots traveler isn't always so lucky. At two or three other cemeteries I went to in Scotland, I didn't find any of the people I was looking for, although I did find graves with the same last name. They may have been cousins and that thought made the trip worth it.

So if you're planning on visiting a cemetery during your roots travel, make sure you do your homework before hand. Finding a gravesite of an ancestor is worth the time and research you put into it beforehand. You may still not find the grave you are looking for, but the search is part of the fun.

Have you found an ancestor's grave while roots traveling? If so, what did the experience feel like for you?

Old Church Cemetery, Cobh, Ireland

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Ireland

If you want to get to know your ancestors, one of the best ways to do so is through a living history museum. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is a living history museum in western Ireland near Limerick.  If you have Irish ancestry, you should definitely plan on making a stop here to learn more about your heritage.

One room house of a landless laborer
The grounds of the museum are extensive, with buildings from different time periods and different levels of income. I found the one room cottage of a landless labourer especially interesting, as it was such a humble and small cottage, with only a fireplace and a bed. The schoolhouse was also interesting, with boys and girls separated into the two halves of the school.

Other buildings include eight different farmhouses (there is even one where the animals lived on one side of the room and the people on the other), a village street and a working pub.

Unfortunately, when I went there were not very many actors to bring the village to life. I visited in March, but apparently there are more during the tourist season.

So if you are in Ireland, plan a stop here. Also, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is a stop on the April 2012 itinerary of Family Roots Travel's Irish Ancestry and Heritage Tour. You can find out more about the tour by clicking the link. If you would like to learn more about the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, you can visit the website here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Festivals and Fun

If you are planning a trip to visit your roots, it's a good idea to check out whether there are any local festivals you might be able to plan your trip around. Local festivals can give you a flavor of the area that you won't necessarily find in the cemetery or the local church.

An example of such a festival is the National Eisteddfod held every August in Wales. This festival celebrating Welsh heritage and culture travels to a different town every year but consistently showcases Welsh culture, music and visual arts. Not only that, but the entire festival is held in Welsh. But I don't understand Welsh, you might say. That is part of the point. You want to experience everything the destination has to offer, whether in English or not.

You can usually find out about a festival by googling the place you are going or by contacting the local tourist bureau. The tourist bureaus always have a wealth of information and you should be contacting them anyway before your trip.

So make your roots travel something to celebrate, by celebrating your heritage at a local festival.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Lusitania

On my recent trip to Ireland, a tour I was on stopped at a small cemetery outside Cobh. In the cemetery there are three mass graves for passengers from the Lusitania whose remains were never identified or never retrieved by relatives. 1198 people died, of which 148 were buried in this cemetery.

The Lusitania was a passenger ship torpedoed early in World War I. You can read more about it here.