So much of family history research happens while sitting behind a desk. But you can learn a lot from getting out and exploring too.
For this week’s genealogy prompt, I’m going to suggest you take some time to enjoy a family history day trip.
Why Take a Family History Day Trip?
First, a family history day trip could be a fun activity to do with the whole family, across several generations. It could be especially fun if you have kids.
More than that though, taking a genealogy day trip can open doors in your research and help you feel a deeper connection with your ancestors.
These trips also don’t require a huge time commitment. And they can help you find research material you could never access online or locally.
What kinds of family history day trips might you even take? Let’s explore some ideas.
5 Family History Day Trip Ideas
Here are five examples of family history day trips you could take:
1: Visit Family
Perhaps the easiest family history day trip you can take is a simple visit with family nearby.
Set up a tea or coffee date with a parent, aunt or uncle, or grandparent with the intention to ask questions and listen to their stories.
This is an especially good idea if you want to get your kids interested in your family’s history. You can share some of the stories you remember ahead of time and have them put together questions of their own.
They’ll learn about history and their family, and their genuine interest might be a gift to family members with stories they’d love to share.
2: See Where Your Ancestors Lived
If you still live in an area where your ancestors did, try to find out where they lived and visit those locations.
For example, you might find the house your great-grandparents lived in. Or you might find the city block your grandparents grew up on.
Explore the areas to get a feel for the things they might have seen and experienced on a daily basis (as well as noting what’s changed over time).
You might be able to find the parks they played in, the school they would have attended, old shops still around since their youth, churches they went to, and so much more.
3: Visit a Cemetery
Another good family history day trip option is visiting a cemetery where some of your more distant ancestors are buried.
It might sound morbid, but it’s really not. It’s a peaceful way to spend a day, and you can learn a lot of interesting things.
For example, when I lived in Pennsylvania, I took a day trip to a Connecticut down with my mother and aunt.
We found the old cemetery with some of our ancestors from the early 1700s (ones from the 1600s were also there, but those earliest grave markers were sadly lost).
Those gravestones helped us identify family members we hadn’t known about previously. We saw children who were lost at young ages, and we found ancestors who lived much longer than we would have expected.
Doing this might offer leads in your research too. Each new name you find is another avenue for your research that could help you smash through a brick wall.
Not sure where your ancestors are buried? Try searching for them at FindAGrave.com.
4. Go to a Genealogy Library
If you’re tracking distant family lines, you might be able to find information by spending a day at a nearby library. That’s especially true if the library has a genealogy room.
A genealogy room will generally have information about town founders or the earliest immigrants to the area. And it might feature books and periodicals related to important figures in the area’s history.
Just note that you sometimes need special permission to access the genealogy room at a library. You can often get a day pass for research. Check on hours before you go though, as they aren’t always the same as the general library hours.
5. Walk in Your Ancestor’s Shoes
Do you know one of your ancestors worked as a blacksmith? Did they take part in an important event like a Civil Rights march? Do you know what route they used to walk to school?
Whether it was an important moment in history or just a glimpse into their every day life, you can take a family history day trip to walk in your ancestor’s shoes.
Take a tour or one-day lesson with a modern blacksmith to get a feel for what your ancestor’s days were like. Or retrace their steps on that march, or on their route to school as a child.
The point of these day trips is to learn about your family history by doing something out of the ordinary for you today.
Do you like to take family history day trips? Tell me about a favorite, or other ideas you have, by leaving a comment below.