Genealogy Road Trip
June 17, 2014
Warm weather is finally here--Yay! It’s the perfect time for vacations, road trips, and finding your ancestors. As every genealogist discovers at some point, travel is sometimes necessary to help with your research. Some records or artifacts can only be viewed in person, and that means travel. Regardless of the distance, genealogy trips are a great way to get out there. Maybe you will get an opportunity to travel to another country or just the next state over to find the missing link for your ancestor.
While I was researching my 3rd-great-grandfather, James Taylor, I found that he had served in the United States Navy during the Civil War. The Midwest Genealogy Center has many wonderful Civil War books, and I found my ancestor in General Register of the United States Navy and Marine Corps for One Hundred Years. Around this same time, I discovered that my family had donated some of his personal items to a museum in Massachusetts. The items were James Taylor’s Civil War Navy uniform jacket and a charcoal portrait of him in his uniform.
I had already been planning a trip to the East Coast to visit my brother. He is in the Navy and is currently stationed in Washington, D.C. When I told him of these items, we decided a road trip to Massachusetts was needed. So, I began planning my first genealogy trip. The first thing I did was call the museum in Massachusetts, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, to find the possibility of viewing my ancestor’s items. Calling ahead is always a good idea, since different museums and libraries have different polices regarding viewing items within in their collections. I talked with one of the curators, who was extremely helpful, and set up an appointment to view the items.
About a week before our appointment, I called the curator I had originally spoken with to confirm the appointment. This is another good idea, as people can get busy and have things fall off their calendar. With the appointment confirmed, my brother and I set off from Washington, D.C. for New Bedford, MA.
In addition to documenting the whaling industry in Massachusetts, The New Bedford Whaling Museum also serves as a repository for local history. James Taylor lived most of his life in Dartmouth, a town about 10 minutes to the west of New Bedford. The staff at the museum was extremely helpful and made the experience so nice. It was fascinating to see my 3rd-great-grandfather’s uniform jacket. This was especially nice since my brother serves in the United States Navy. The best part was seeing the charcoal portrait since no photographs of this man exists. One of my favorite parts of genealogy is putting a face to the data that you discover through research.
Genealogy trips are a great way to bring your research full circle. By finding personal artifacts or images of your ancestors, you can truly get a better idea of an individual and their life. I hope you have as much fun and success as I did. Happy hunting!
Midwest Genealogy Center