Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roots Travel at Thanksgiving and Christmas

Are you heading to Grandma and Grandpa's with your kids for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Then you are participating in roots travel.

Visiting family is roots travel at its simplest. It is a great time to tell stories, take time to catch up with family, and think about how your family has helped make you who you are.  Make sure you make the most of it. Take the kids out for a trip down memory lane. Drive past your old high school and tell them about when you were in school. Show them the field where you played football, and maybe play a little with them yourself.

Take some time for Grandma and Grandpa to tell some stories about when you or they were little. Make sure you have something to record the stories. Ask them about the places they grew up, or even where their parents grew up. You can then start planning your next roots travel vacation.

I wish all my readers a happy season with lots of family and friends, with a little roots travel mixed in.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Most Important Thing to Remember in Roots Travel

Put yourself in your ancestor's shoes to have a great roots travel vacation
So you want to go on a non-research roots vacation, where you would like to connect with places associated with your ancestor? That's great. Of course you want to have a great time. Luckily, there is only one thing you have to remember to make sure you have a wonderful trip. What is it?

Put yourself in your ancestor's shoes and try to see the world through their eyes.

Remembering this one thing will be the difference between developing a deep connection with your ancestral travel and merely taking another trip. Roots travel is about more than just checking off a list of tourist sites. It is even more than checking off a list of places your ancestors may have been. That's why it is so important to keep the above advice in mind.

Take a moment when you arrive at each destination to think to yourself, "This is where my ancestor came from." When you go into a church associated with your ancestor, don't just think of it as a place they went to. Sit down in a pew and think to yourself, "My ancestor may have sat in this very pew. Maybe their kids were baptized in that font over there." If your ancestors were married in the church, imagine the wedding party moving down the aisle. Become a part of that history for just a minute.

When you see a building that may have been around when your ancestor was there, don't dismiss it because you don't have a specific connection. Instead, think to yourself, "My ancestor may have seen that building every day. I wonder if she ever entered the building, or stopped and spoke to someone outside of that building." You have created a connection by placing yourself in your ancestor's shoes and seeing the world through their eyes.

Even if you know your ancestors were farmers, if there is a local castle or stately home, take some time to tour it. Imagine to yourself your ancestor, gazing up at the building wondering what went on inside. Now you, hundreds of years later, are fulfilling that dream for them.

If you try put yourself in your ancestor's shoes and see the world through their eyes, you will create connections that you hadn't even anticipated. Those connections will be powerful. It takes a bit of imagination to put yourself in their shoes. It takes a willingness to accept not just what is known, but what is possible as well. You may not know whether your ancestor sat in that specific pew or stood in front of that particular building, but it is possible. By accepting the possible, you open up the wonderful possibilities in the world of roots travel.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Atlanta Family History Expo: Talking Roots Travel

Right now I am at the Family History Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. It's been a great day of talking to people about roots travel, and hearing about some of the places they would like to travel.

It's amazing how each person has a story about their ancestors and the places they came from. I have spoken with people whose ancestors were from Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Russia, Barbados, Georgia, Jamestown, Ireland, Scotland, Vermont, Italy, Germany, and many, many other places. Those ancestors were farmers, villagers, and even nobility. One was close to a Russian czar, ad one even owned land on which a Mayan city was later found.

The one common thread that goes through all these encounters is how people want to learn more about their heritage through traveling to see these places first-hand. They feel a pull back to these destinations that can't be sourced back to an ad campaign by some tourist bureau. It's all about family, heritage, and discovering who we are by finding out who our ancestors were.

Tomorrow I get to do it again and speak to as many people as I can about roots travel. The more I do, the stronger I feel that roots travel is an absolutely essential part of genealogy. It is full of stories of people, places, and dreams. Done right, it can change the way you view yourself, your ancestors, and the world.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Living History Museums - A Great Way to Connect With Ancestors

Roots travel is about connections. Connections with place and connections with people. At living history museums, you can find both those connections in abundant supply.

A living history museum is a museum that recreates life in a certain place at a certain time period, often with museum employees in costume dress, ready to answer your questions.  If you have ancestors from that place and time period, it is one of the best ways of better understanding how those ancestors lived. You can see the way they dressed, ate, and lived, all in one museum. If there is a living history museum near your planned itinerary, you should definitely consider taking the time to visit.

Below are just a few living history museums to consider if you are in the area -

The list could go on and on - the above are just a few examples.  Next time you plan on traveling, check to see if there is a living history museum in the area. You won't regret it.

If you have a living history museum you've visited and particularly enjoyed, please let us know in the comments.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Have Online Records Made Roots Travel Obsolete?

Everyone knows the internet has changed genealogy dramatically. Millions of documents are now at the fingertips of professional and amateur genealogists the world over. Research has become much easier, and the possibility of finding that lost birth or death record has gone up exponentially. Considering all of these developments, one might argue that roots travel is no longer necessary, because the internet can take you anywhere. However, that would be wrong. Online records and the internet have not made roots travel obsolete, although they have definitely changed it.

On the internet, a person can visit a far-away place with the click of the mouse. YouTube can show you video of almost any place in the world. Information about a country is just a Google search away. Genealogical research is only as far as it takes your fingers to type or FamilySearch. Those developments are all incredibly positive in every sense of the word. But do these developments also take away some of the impetus to get out and travel to a person's roots? Is it easier to do roots travel from a chair than in person? Unfortunately, some people may think so. If you can find a picture of a gravesite on Find A Grave, why go there in person?

Because of the internet, there is less reason to travel for research reasons, but it has opened up the possibilities for a different kind of roots travel. Instead of focusing on finding a record in a county records office, today's roots traveler can focus instead on the experience of visiting relevant places. The research can (mostly) be done at home. Roots travel can be about discovering the destination instead of discovering the record.

In a way, that makes roots travel more powerful. And in spite of the ability to do so much research online, roots travel remains an important part of genealogy. Though one might not research, genealogy is ultimately about discovering the past. Copies of birth records and censuses will only get you so far. To really understand your ancestors, you must put yourself literally in their place. You must surround yourself with people that have the same accent as your ancestors had; you must walk the same streets; you must walk through the same doors and see the same buildings. Whether or not those buildings are still existing, visiting one's roots will connect you with your ancestors just as much as finding a record with their handwriting. And you get the added bonus of a vacation!

Online records have not made roots travel obsolete.  They have changed roots travel, to be sure. But taking a roots vacation or making a side trip on your vacation to visit your roots will continue to be as important to family history as it ever was--perhaps even more.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ireland, England and Scotland: The Perfect Places to Start Roots Traveling

When I was running my roots travel business, I took a survey at the California Family History Expo. The survey was an unscientific sampling of those who stopped by my booth, but one thing was certain. For international roots travel, the countries most people were interested in traveling to were Ireland, Scotland and England.

The reason is clear. These countries provide an excellent place to start visiting your family's past. They are foreign, but not too foreign. English is spoken, making it easy to communicate. It is fairly easy to get around by train or by car. Plus, each place has a robust system of bed and breakfasts to put the roots traveler close to those small villages from which ancestors always seem to come.

Not only that, but for those wishing to put their family's roots in place in history, each of these countries offers centuries of history one can see and explore, making the roots travel experience that much deeper. There are enough museums, houses, and historical buildings to develop a well-rounded vacation including roots travel and general historical travel.

So if you have English, Irish, or Scottish ancestry, consider a trip to one of those countries as your first foray into international roots travel. You won't regret it.