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, newspaper archives, and thousands of other items are
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Challenge yourself to slow the pace.
Shun the interstates in favor of older pathways like Route 66.
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
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.
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?
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
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!
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.
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.