Not everyone has a close relative who is a family history buff, but just about anyone can figure out where their people come from and use that knowledge to enjoy family roots travel, whether that means simply taking the kids to see the hometown where your parents or grandparents lived, or going a bit farther down the branches of the family tree. These trips can be greatly enhanced by using local genealogical and historical resources to try to forge personal connections to your ancestors.
The detective aspect is what many people find so compelling about family history. Before your trip or in conjunction with your trip, interview older or distant relatives about their backgrounds and knowledge of their grandparents. Their files and attics are often a source for memorabilia that constitutes the raw material of genealogy–various newspaper clippings, old photos, letters, legal documents and diaries–as well as the lore that makes travel destinations tell a personal story.
To find cemeteries, churches and geographical features that may have been significant landmarks in rural areas, it may be helpful to obtain topographic maps. Also called quadrangles, they are available from U.S. Geological Survey Information Services (Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225; phone: 888-275-8747).
The experience of finding ancestors logically suggests sight-seeing possibilities, such as walking tours, museums and festivals that relate to your legacy. Also check a timeline to help frame and focus a search. In much of the country, Revolutionary and Civil War reenactments provide another window into dramatic historical events. Staying at historic hotels and inns is another enjoyable way to connect to the ancestral experience. It’s a great way to teach your children history without boring them to death. Suggested prime repositories of family history include the following:
- Historic Genealogical Society (http://www.newenglandancestors.org; phone: 888-296-3447)
- Walk the Freedom Trail’s landmarks of the American Revolution (http://www.bostonfamilyhistory.com)
NEW YORK CITY
- New York Public Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library (http://www.nypl.org)
- Gotham Center provides links to other places of interest (http://www.gothamcenter.org)
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies (http://www.hsp.org; phone: 215-732-6200)
- Visit Independence Hall and area (For a virtual tour see http://www.historicphiladelphia.org)
- Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Reading Room
(http://www.loc.gov/rr/genealogy; phone: 202-707-2905)
- Resources for Genealogists and Family Historians (http://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/)
- Daughters of the American Revolution Library (http://www.dar.org: phone: 202-628-1776)
- Smithsonian Institution (http://www.si.edu; phone: 202-357-2700)
- Fort Wayne, Indiana holds the world’s second largest family research collection:
Allen County Public Library (http://www.acpl.lib.in.us; phone: 260-421-1200)
- Salt Lake City has the largest collection of genealogical information:
Family History Library (http://www.familysearch.org; phone: 801-240-2331)
- Moultrie, Georgia–Scottish Clan Archives
Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library hosts over 120 Scottish Clan Archives and specializes in Scottish research. (http://www.electricscotland.com/familytree)
- Guelph, Ontario, Canada has the largest Scottish collection in North America at the University of Guelph (http://www.lib.uoguelph.ca/archives/Scottish)
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