Skip to main content

Several months ago, I wrote one of the GFHC Friday open threads about how not all records are on-line yet and that, to be thorough in genealogy work, one needs to go to libraries, courthouses, and the like. See this diary for all those gory details ;-)

But there's another way genealogists should get out from behind the computer, if at all possible.... visit the areas your ancestors lived. Find their houses (if still extant...), or the locations, if not.

Follow me over the squiggly doohickey for more.

There are benefits beyond just the thrill of standing where your ancestors lived to visiting the locations you are researching. Not to be too preachy, but it's often worth the time and effort to visit the areas ancestors lived in.

There may be dates or clues in, for example, how a cemetery is laid out....or you might find that a gravestone has a date that you haven't found on-line yet ~~ or that a sister is buried next to your ancestor but was missed when the graveyard was cataloged (yup, happened to me.....).

Even though I think I've mined the Learoyd-Putnam cemetery for any possible information, I still often stop there when I'm in eastern Massachusetts.....


Visiting an area can help you visualize how easy it was to get around before cars. Is the area hilly and hard to walk? Or flat and settled in compact areas? Did families in the area live in densely-packed detached houses or tenements? Or maybe in isolated shepherd's cottages?

Detached houses on the North Shore of Massachusetts (Marblehead, to be specific):

Picture 024

Ambrose Gale house Marblehead

Picture 018

Picture 017

Tenements in Edinburgh:

Edin Whitehorse Close Peter McGee birthplace

Milnes Close

Shankend Shiel, where my grandmother's grandmother was born ~~ isolated now, it was even more so 150 years ago...

Shankendshiel from distance

My great-great-grandmother was living in this house when she died; the current residents invited me in for a cup of tea...and shared old pictures of the house a previous resident had given them:

Borders 20 Oct 143

Borders 20 Oct 142

It's also possible to find a small historical society with volunteers with local knowledge....or (as happened to me in Scotland) a combination of the local postmaster and a man in his late 80s waiting for a bus, pointed out by the postmaster, who helped me find a place that an ancestor had died from the conflicting newspaper and coroner's reports.

Similarly, I happened on a senior citizens' group at the church my grandparents had met at ~~ and several of the women remembered my great aunts and great grandmother, all of whom had died before I was born....

So Leith Baptist Church sign

So Leith Baptist Church

Obviously, trips like this cost time and money, but they can unstick brick walls ~~ and  make the whole pursuit of genealogy much richer.

Just for fun: this picture was taken standing on the site of an ancestor's house.... the white building in the middle has been a pub for almost 2 centuries, and it is likely that that ancestor often drank there (as he died from a bit too much New Year's Eve one year....drowning in a mill pond).

8 Ladhope bank site Keddie 1861 to 1899

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site