A dear friend of mine recently started a podcast for family history lovers called Genies Down Under, and since I started listening to it I’ve been getting inspiration to do some travelling to delve into bits of my own family history. In fact, the whole idea is so much fun that I decided to interview Maria, the genie behind Genies Down Under, in the hope that I might inspire some of my fellow travellers to include a spot of genealogical travel in their itinerary.
|Maria from Genies Down Under on tour … in Orange, NSW|
If I’m planning a trip to a place where I know my ancestors lived, what kind of research should I do ahead of time?
Talk to your relatives first. No one will know your family better than your family members. Ask them what they know about the places you’re planning to visit (e.g., Aunty Jude visited Uncle Bob’s grave every day until the day she died). You never know, your relatives may even have some old photographs or postcards from the places you intend to visit.
Addresses. Record addresses of key sites in written and electronic formats – as printed notes, as text on your mobile device, scribbled marks on printed maps and, if possible, GPS data which can take you directly to the sites. Record the street addresses of where your ancestors lived, places they visited, their church, the local library, the local museum, the local gallery and the cemetery. You don’t want to waste time driving around cities and towns that are unfamiliar to you.
When I visit one of these special (to me!) towns or cities, what are your three tips for the most interesting or useful places to visit?
|Old memories of Bourke, outback Australia|
And finally, one of your podcasts gave me the best tip ever – you don’t have to research your entire family tree, you can just pick a few “favourite ancestors” to investigate. If I want to do this (without spending hours and hours researching every distant relative), where do you suggest I start?
Choose one ancestor and talk to old relatives about this person. Your elderly relatives will be your ancestors one day so take the opportunity to talk to them now. When you talk to your relatives, supplement the questions that spring to your mind naturally with this list of questions from Ancestry.com. Try to have a conversation rather than an interview with your relatives and ALWAYS get permission to record the conversation (either in text, audio or video format). A good way to start the conversation is to ask the relative to give some commentary on a few old photographs or a photograph album, or just have a 5-10 minute phone conversation that starts with something like … “Tell me about old Uncle Richard”.