Genealogy Road Trip Tip 5: Make a plan

Tip 5: Make a plan. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

By now, your genealogy road trip should be shaping up nicely — you have a destination in mind, hopefully a travel partner has agreed to go along, you’ve set the dates and called ahead to let folks know you’re coming. Well done!

By: Oliver Tacke
Get out the checklist. A written plan that lists family history goals, schedules adequate research time and includes leisure activities will help focus your genealogy road trip. By: Oliver Tacke

Now it’s time to make a plan that outlines what you and your travel partner want to accomplish on this genealogy road trip — and a day-by-day schedule of what you both will be doing at the destination.

And by a plan, I mean a written plan, on paper or electronic media — with dates, times addresses, places to go, people to see and family history goals to achieve.

A genealogy road trip guide

Think of this plan as your own personal genealogy road trip guide — featuring all the people and locations you want to visit with a sketched out schedule for each day of your trip. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Set goals for the trip. Do you want to locate a probate or land record for an ancestor? Find records from a house of worship? Learn more about a local business where an ancestor worked? See the houses where family members once lived?  Visit an ancestral cemetery? Your goals will help focus your travel plan.

Factor in extra research time. No matter how efficient you are, genealogy research always seems to take more time than you think it will. So if you plan to visit repositories at your destination, add a bit more research time than you anticipate you’ll need so you don’t get caught short.

Get input from your travel partner. You and your travel partner may want to do many activities together, especially if you share ancestors — but allow time for individual pursuits, too. I once traveled to Montréal with a ski-buff friend; while I was at the archive researching my ancestors, she drove north to check out the ski spots. At the end of the day we both had stories to tell — and it added to the ambiance of the trip.

Take in the sights. One of the joys of a family history road trip is to fully experience a destination where your ancestors once lived — including the natural surroundings. So allow some time to take in the sights and talk to the locals to get a sense of how the area may have influenced your family’s history.

Can you think of other items to include in a genealogy road trip plan? Please share them in the comment section!

Tomorrow we load the carry-on with Tip 6: Pack your research materials. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Genealogy Road Trip Tip 4: Call ahead

Tip 4: Call ahead. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

Once you and your travel partner(s) have set the date and destination for your genealogy road trip, it’s time to call ahead and let folks know you are coming.

Land line phone keypad. Establishing person-to-person contact by calling ahead can open doors at your genealogy road trip destination and set a positive tone for your visit. By: Andrew Malone

This may seem like an old school tip when so many interactions today are through social media , text and email — but there is still nothing like person-to-person contact to set a positive tone for your visit and open doors when you arrive at your destination.

Calling ahead is a great way of introducing yourself to those who may be able to help you with research and logistics during your family history trip.

Contact research repositories

First on your list to call should be offices, archives and other repositories you plan to visit at your destination. Check their hours of operation and procedures online — then make a quick call to double check that they will be open during your trip.

While you’re on the phone, ask if there is a librarian, archivist or office staff you should ask for when you arrive — they may even come to the phone. This gives you a chance to introduce yourself and let them know when you will be in their area.

Reach out to relatives and neighbors

You and your travel partner(s) may also want to reach out to any relatives who live at or near your destination. Do you want to do an oral history interview with an elderly relative? Might some of your extended family have documents, photographs or stories they would be willing to share with you? Calling ahead gives them time to be prepared — and to locate precious family history items.

And don’t forget about the neighbors. My oldest brother and I went on a family history road trip to visit our childhood home, which had been damaged by flood waters and was scheduled to be torn down. We called ahead and arranged to meet some of our former neighbors — children we had grown up with who were now adults like us, along with a couple of their moms — and had a wonderful time sharing stories and touring around our old block together.

Take your list with you

Above all, keep track of your calls — and be sure to pack your phone list and any notes when you gather materials for your genealogy road trip. You and your travel partner(s) will want to have ready access to the information at your destination.

Please stop back tomorrow for Tip 5: Make a plan

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Genealogy Road Trip Tip 3: Set your travel dates

Tip 3: Set your travel dates. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

Mark your calendar. Once you have selected your destination, and your travel partner is on board, it’s time to get out the calendar and start circling possible dates for your genealogy road trip. By: Dafne Cholet

Now that you’ve selected your destination, and your travel partner is on board, it’s time to get out the calendar and start circling possible dates for your genealogy road trip.

Easy, right? Well, not necessarily. Here are some things to thinks about when scheduling your genealogy road trip.

What dates work best for you and your travel partner? Whether it’s a local, weekend trip or a longer journey to a distant destination, start scheduling your genealogy road trip by blocking out a few possible time frames with your travel partner — and far enough ahead to take advantage of savings on airfares and accommodations or to arrange vacation time from work.

When are records repositories open at your destination? You don’t want to arrive at your family history research location and find out the offices or archives you need to visit are closed because of a holiday or special summer hours. Or walk into a town office looking for vital records on the opening day for fishing license applications. (Yep, that once happened to me!)

What will the weather be like on your target dates? Spring and summer are nice times for genealogy road trips in some areas, but if your ancestors hale from south Florida or San Diego or sunny climes abroad, you might think about a winter trip to those destinations. Also consider scheduling around mosquitoes, black flies and other seasonal wildlife that could cut short outdoor activities like visiting an ancestral cemetery, home or school.

When is the tourist season at your destination? Traveling off-season can be cost effective and it will probably be easier to get around without the crowds of sightseers. Plus you are more likely to experience typical day-to-day life at your family history destination.

Will your road trip happen during a special event? Sometimes an event will set your dates for you. Perhaps your destination features an annual festival or parade, a centennial event or similar commemorative gathering. Check the location’s events calendar and consider planning your visit to coincide with a special event — one your ancestors may have attended or participated in decades or centuries before.

Setting your travel dates is a balancing act, but one that sets the stage for a productive genealogy road trip for you and your loved ones. Once you know when you’re going, you can begin your pre-trip preparations with your target date as the deadline.

Next up Tip 4: Call ahead

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time