Sunday, June 10, 2018
Taking Your Genealogical Research
on the Road
June is traditionally the month for dads and grads, but it is also the time when folks turn their minds to vacation plans. School's out and the weather's fine, so the start of summer is a natural time to take a trip.
For people like you and me, when our minds turn to vacation travel, we are likely to find a way to wangle a side trip to a cemetery or an archival collection—or at least a detour to drive by the home where our second great grandparents once lived. Call that nosy family history, but we just want to see the sights that were once important to our ancestors.
Traveling for genealogical purposes is getting to be a thing. I've taught a class at nearby libraries on taking that genealogical research on the road—I used to teach it right about now through mid-June, but then I had to move it back a month because I wanted to go traveling, too.
More than just how-to-pack-for-a-research-trip, though, genealogical travel is reaching far beyond that. I ran across an article recently, talking about "heritage tourism." While that was mainly a blurb promoting one particular cruise line, it did provide a handy label for the trend. While we've seen genealogy as a hobby climb in popularity over the past decade, we've also seen a widespread fascination with travel. Couple those two interests into one package and you've got a stellar seller.
I've already taken the opportunity to do some of my own "heritage tourism." I'm not talking about trips to the Fort Wayne or Salt Lake City genealogical libraries here, but actual travel packages coordinated by a genealogist for research in a specific destination. That's one part of our family's trip to Ireland a few years ago, when I participated in Donna Moughty's Dublin research tour.
There are so many different researching travel opportunities now—so many, in fact, that Cyndi's List includes a separate category, "Travel & Research." Admittedly, some of the links are old, but there are still enough to fill four pages in her website.
Those aren't the only resources for travel-and-genealogy combos. Many genealogical societies include tours among their offerings. The California Genealogical Society, for instance, just returned from a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City this past May. The New England Historic Genealogical Society offers guided research tours to locations not only in the United States, but also in Canada and the British Isles—plus hosting tours at their own facilities in Boston.
For those researching their foreign origins, a first trip to the homeland might be more profitable under the direction of someone who has already been there, knows the best locations for research and has prepared the way with arrangements for housing and meals so the researcher can focus on the primary reason for the trip: find those ancestors. That's how I felt about Donna Moughty's program in Dublin. If I could find a similarly well-recommended program so I could get started with hands-on research in my family's home region in Poland, that would be a great way to approach the challenge.
There are a lot of how-to posts to read on what to do when taking your genealogical research on the road. For the most part, those tips—know the hours of operation for the archive, pack coins for photocopy machines, and other such mundane details—are useful for domestic forays. When you combine all the angst of having to pack a laundry list of research goals into a time-limited visit with the overarching challenges of doing it all in a foreign country (and maybe a foreign language, too), it sometimes is better to heed that old travel slogan and "leave the driving to us."