Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

Genealogy research is a field that has advanced by leaps and bounds in the last few decades.

Electronic storage of historical records and the ability to access them remotely via the internet

has made it incredibly easy for researchers in any part of the world to trace their lineage in

any other part of the world.

Marriage licenses, death records, , and thousands of other items are

rapidly accessible.

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

It’s clear that the researcher of 2017 can acquire the same information much more easily

than the 1987 researcher.

This leaves us in a bit of a quandary:

With all the time and money we’ve saved with a rapid online trip through history, what

else can we do to deepen our understanding?

For many people, it’s enough just to have the names, dates, and locations.

And they may be quite content to pocket the financial savings and spend more time with

their present-day relatives.

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

But for others, the possibilities of how to invest those research resources are endless.

An option that many have chosen is to hit the road and visit the places where their

ancestors lived, worked, and played. If that appeals to you, think about these options

for making it happen.

Visit Local Sites

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

When it took hours and days to find out that your great-grandparents owned a general

store on the frontier, that was probably as far as you could get.

When an app or a website gets you that information in just minutes, you can take it a

little further.

You can visit the town where they worked and get a feel for the weather, the scenery, the

local dialects, the food, and everything else they experienced.

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

One thing you’ll notice right away will be the difference in how you traveled compared

to how your ancestors traveled.

While travel is a time-honored tradition, it is done very differently today.

Just as your research is amazingly fast today, your travel will be too.

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

Challenge yourself to slow the pace.

Shun the interstates in favor of older pathways like .

Look at the architecture and scenery of a small town as you’re waiting at its single stoplight.

Remember, this is a trip to log information, not to maximize the turning of your odometer.

Slow it down and give yourself a chance to feel what your ancestors felt.

Do Local Research

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

Sure, there are countless online resources for family research.

But many of them don’t cover quite the detail that you can get.

Use those fast providers to find out where your relatives lived, but then follow up by

going there yourself.

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

Every city and town has a library somewhere, and if its curators have a penchant for

genealogy, you may find astounding resources there.

Everything from records of local businesses and churches to photos from historic events

may be stored there.

And how much more meaningful is it to say that you found the photo of your great-

grandparents in their hometown instead of simply pulling it off the computer?

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

Should you track down some photos or other location-based evidence, find the places.

See if local residents can help you identify the storefront where a photograph was taken,

and then have one made of yourself there.

Meet Local People

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

It may be impossible to achieve the rest of this without getting to know people along the

way, but be sure that you do it.

Turn on your gregariousness and strike up conversations.

Grab a phone book and look for local people who share surnames that you’re working with,

or better yet, look for the names on local businesses like law firms and stores.

You never know what your distant cousins might be into!

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

Locals will add some depth to your stories.

Your family may have been very well-known in town, and there may be colorful stories

about them that you can hear.

Bring a digital recorder and get a record of what they tell you.

Following Your Ancestors' Footsteps...Literally

Technology today makes it simple and fast to get huge amounts of family research.

But don’t let that be the end of it.

Instead, use technology as a springboard to get you to information that would have been

impractical or even impossible to collect not so long ago.


Have you explored–or are you interested in exploring–your genealogy?

Share your thoughts and comments with us.