Tips for Planning a Family History Trip

old gravestonesThere have been several popular television shows that inspired people to start digging into their own family history. Some of those shows include travel. A celebrity is taken to a location where his or her ancestors lived or worked. Have you ever wanted to do a genealogy trip of your own? Here are some tips to help you make the most of it.

Get Organized Before You Leave

Aimee Cebuiski wrote an article titled Family tree travel: How to create your own journey into the past on CNN. In it, she points out that it is a good idea to get your family history organized before you leave. Put together what you already know about your family history in a way that you can reference while traveling.

It might be useful to construct a family tree on (or any other online genealogy website) before you start your trip. Use a mobile app that can let you view and change your family tree while you are on the go. Taking a close look at your family tree can reveal where the “gaps” are. You may want to plan a trip that takes you to information that can fill in the blanks.

Don’t Drop in Unannounced

Family history trips involve planning that typical vacations don’t usually require. You’ve decided exactly where you want to travel to. The next step (beyond securing lodging and a plane ticket) is to start contacting the people who are in charge of the resources you want to explore.

Call the local library and speak with a librarian. Find out when the library is open. Can you access old newspapers there? It is possible that the librarian might have the time to pull the information you require and set it aside for you. Are you seeking information about marriages, christenings, and funerals? Speak with the clergy at the local church and arrange a time for you come in and do research.

In general, people who are in charge of old records that are sought after by genealogists will be willing to help you. Don’t drop in unannounced, though, and expect them to cast aside everything to accommodate you. Work together as a team to make arrangements.

Visit the Cemeteries

Make sure you have a camera with you when you visit the cemetery. Take photos of the gravestones of your family members. Photos are one way to record the information that is on a gravestone without damaging it in the process. You may want to upload your photo to Find A Grave and share it with others.

It is possible that the gravestones near your ancestor’s grave will reveal family members that are unknown to you. The “maiden name” of a female ancestor might be recorded on her grave. Look for graves that say “Baby” and note the year. Family graves list all of the people buried there. You might read some names that are new to you. Each little piece of information helps unlock the mystery of your family history.

Image by Micolo J on Flickr.

Related Articles:

* Frugal Alternatives to a Genealogy Road Trip

* Picture Postcard

* Gravestones: Then and Now

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