09 April 2009

Plan a genealogy vacation

Let's talk about genealogy vacations.

Some years ago, I found a link to cousins whose history included origins in Skalat (Galizia) -> South Africa -> a kibbutz in the Galil (Israel). I wrote numerous letters and never got a response. I chalked it up to a dead end and went on with other projects.

Fast forward a few years. Imagine my surprise when our doorbell rang in a Las Vegas suburb and two people on my doorstep said "Hi, we're your Israeli cousins."

They stayed with us for a few days and we had a great time. Good thing I was home when the doorbell rang! I'm not sure how most Americans would react to that doorstep meeting, but having become accustomed to Persian cousins appearing out of the blue, I think I took it in stride.

However, if you're planning a genealogy vacation, I would certainly advise notifying the long-lost cousins beforehand - if only to make sure they're at home!

When our daughter was doing her college search, we contacted relatives in Springfield, Massachusetts, who kindly invited us to stay - and even loaned us a car for area college visits! We met new relatives and solved some family mysteries.

You might also prefer that your trip not resemble a National Lampoon vacation movie.

There are ways to make your roots trip a success, and Leland Meitzler of GenealogyBlog pointed to Jeff Bockman's genealogy vacation article.

Since I am a visual learning person, I liked Jeff's tip of procuring a large map and sticking on colored dots (get those tiny temporary adhesive dots in any large office supply store):

Pick the geographic area where you need or want to do research.

Get a detailed map of the area

Get a map from your home to the area if you are driving.

Place Red dots or pins on every town with a courthouse or research facility where you have ancestors.

Use Black dots for every cemetery where you have ancestors buried.

Use Blue dots for any living known relatives (down to 2nd or 3rd cousins)

Put a Yellow dot or Smiley face on the tourist attractions that your disinterested spouse or children want to visit.

Use Green dots for any attractions that you want to see.
Connect the dots to get in as much as possible and satisfy the others who are along for the ride. There's much more.

I especially liked Jeff's suggestion of getting the family involved in your cemetery searches.

When visiting cemeteries with children the following statement can be helpful. "We can go to as soon as we locate the tombstone of ." You will know if you have been visiting too many cemeteries when you are looking for a picnic area and your children say "there's one" and you look and see a cemetery.
Read the complete article at Jeff's site for more suggestions on planning a roots trip.

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