Ah summer! We love the heat and we love to complain about it. Finally, in my part of the country, we are having warm days without the crazy humidity and rain. And by the time you read this I’ll have enjoyed a quick family vacation to another part of the state. What does any of this have to do with family history? Well, as we start to write our family history, it is important to capture stories about the people we know as well as our immigrant ancestors. And writing about their travel history is one way to do that. Here are some ideas.
Our immigrant ancestors traveled to get to their new country, but it definitely wasn’t a vacation. No luxury accommodations or quick flights. Instead many traveled by sailing ships or steam ships in crowded third class conditions. If we can determine the ship and immigration dates, we can add color to their story by doing a little research. Look in local newspapers for the port they landed at…they often report the ship and if there was anything unusual about the trip. The ship list often has a summary page that says how many passengers were on the ship, any deaths and births or anything else unusual. I’ve noticed that some captains note how many bags or pieces of luggage each person had. You may also find a picture of the ship and learn some of its history. Studying historical documents will help you build a story about what a typical trip might have been like for your ancestor. I have one who traveled with five children under the age of 7 years including an infant. I don’t think that this was uncommon. We’d be daunted today traveling with that many little ones on a plane, wouldn’t we?!
Ancestors that we knew growing up might include our Great-grandparents and Grandparents. Did they travel? Perhaps they journeyed to a parent’s funeral a few states away or traveled west or south in the hopes of improving their health. I think that we tend to think of our people as staying on the farm and never venturing outside their local community. You might be fortunate to have ancestors with the means and opportunity to take a European tour. It was not unheard of to travel back to the old country.
How should you start capturing this information? Here are some ideas.
Even though travel was more difficult then, people still took trains to “big cities” and traveled by car across states before the interstate highway system to see family and explore their world. Today we travel at a drop of a hat and think nothing of flying from one part of the country to another for family, work and vacations. Capture those traveling stories for future generations!
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― St. Augustine
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.