In the process of making summer day-trip plans, we’ve decided to add my father’s ancestral hometown to the list of places we will visit in the coming warm-weather months. The town is in northern Michigan, so it’s doable from here, but it really doesn’t matter from where your ancestors hail – you can always go home again.
Planning the details of the trip is important, though, in order to get the most out of your experience, family history wise. Including all family members in the activities there, such as visiting the local cemetery to find ancestral tombstones, touring the church your family members attended or checking out the library for newspaper and other archives from great-great-grandpa’s days will ensure everyone has fun and gains greater appreciation for their genealogical backdrop.
A fun way to bring adventure to the outing is to grab a local phone book and look for listings of those with your same surname. Give them a call; they are most likely distant cousins, especially if your surname is unusual. Or visit the actual home that housed your long-ago relatives. It could be the resident knows something of your family via the home or articles they may have left behind there.
Visiting the local diner or barbershop could prove valuable in locating older residents of the town who may even remember great-great-Aunt Lizzie, or at least some local legends and stories from her time there. Other sources of interesting information include the schools where your ancestor’s records might just be on file, longtime business establishments where family members may have worked or shopped and hospitals, doctors’ offices and mortuaries where medical and death records could be stored.
Of course, don’t forget to visit the local newspaper, government offices, hot spots and landmarks, and be sure to take pictures, take notes and grab souvenirs everywhere you go for a vacation that adds to your “present” and creates an interest in your “past.”