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Have Fun With Family History and Bring Your Ancestor Alive!

Updated on March 2, 2015

Identifying Our Ancestor and Identifying With Them

Genealogical facts are important, they helps to identify our ancestors. But other information we come across in our genealogical search can help us to identify with our relative. When we find our ancestor's birth certificate we can finally say for certain that they were born in a specific place on a specific date, and it is necessary to do so to move forward with our research. Too often after that discovery however, we move on to look for the next fact on our list much too fast, without fully absorbing or appreciating the information we have found.

Just think about it, we spend months, maybe years searching for a particular ancestor. When we finally find them we are over the moon, and eagerly enter their data in our family group sheet or place them in our pedigree chart. Then we go looking for whoever is next. But do we know, really know, who we have just found? Yes, it may have been Peter Parker, born July 17. 1783 in Boston, Massachusetts, but who was Peter Parker? What did he do? What did he like? How did he dress? What were his passions? Who were his friends?

You may not be able to find the exact answers to some of these questions, but you can with some, and with others, a little bit of historical research can finish painting your family member's portrait. Doesn't it make sense to, after spending all of that time, energy, and money finding our ancestor, spend a bit more time, just a fraction of the amount we spent tracking them down, to try to get to know them better, so as to appreciate the person they were as much as possible? I think so, especially as they are family members, not some strangers from our past!


Getting to Know Your Ancestor

Too often our ancestors do remain strangers after we find them. It is very easy to become excited when we find a long sought after relative and so quickly move on to the next. We end up in some sort of competition with ourselves to find as many ancestors as quickly as possible. Perhaps it's because of the excitement of sharing our discoveries with other family members, maybe it's because we simply love our family and want to expand it. But wouldn't it be more rewarding to share an actual personality rather than just genealogical data, to bring an old personality alive and welcome them into the fold? It's really not as difficult, nor does it take as much time as you might think. What's more, it can be an awful lot of fun!


Fun Ideas for Bringing Ancestors Alive

As I began to discover my ancestors during my own genealogical search, I realized that some of them lived in very interesting and exciting times and places. As social and political events affect us, I figured my ancestors would have also been influenced by the events and social-economic conditions of their times of their times. For instance, some of them lived in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Civil War, some in Scotland during the war with England during the 1640's, others in Canada when gold was discovered in the Klondike. Surely I thought my ancestors would have been affected by and reacted somehow to these events, so I used my imagination and a bit of historical research to picture what it must have been like for them.

The exercise was very rewarding, I not only learned about history, but developed a deeper understanding and knowledge of my relatives who lived during such times. But that was not enough, I wanted to share my experience with other family members. I had traced my family thus far back to the 1640's in Scotland. I began thinking of how to involve other family members in my enjoyment of genealogical research, and so I decided to hold a theme party.

Theme Parties

The parties are an excellent way to celebrate your heritage. The theme of the evening I planned was designed to honor our Scottish roots. It took a bit of work and time, but in the end it not only brought our family closer to our past, but we became closer in the present as well. I designed a Scottish menu which included Haggis of course, but I went even deeper into the theme to find traditional recipes from the time period our family lived in Scotland (1640's-1846).

In my research I came across several websites offering traditional Scottish recipes, and I finally found the perfect menu which I thought would completely catch the essence of both our ancestors and the times they lived in. In addition to Haggis there was; Friar’s Chicken or Old Scots Brown Soup, Brown Fricassee of Duck, Solan Goose, Roast Fowl, and a few other dishes that looked like they could be a bit much for the inexperienced pallets of my family and me! Of course we had to have the Haggis (which was quite good by the way), and I also decided to go with the Roast Fowl (I used some Game Hens), and the Fricasee of Duck.

I also managed to get my hands on some Scottish Ale, a few selections of Scottish Whiskey, one of which was Jura and which I highly recommend!. A friend of mine is an accomplished bagpipe player and so I hired him (much to the dismay of my neighbors) to “pipe family members aboard” as they arrived. I had asked my guests to dress in period costume, and I played the part of my ancestor, William Morris, for the evening. The evening turned out to be a great success, and even got a few of my relatives started on their own family tree projects.

No matter where your family comes from, there is history and heritage to celebrate. Theme parties are an awesome way of getting to know your culture as well. You may even have family members from the old country living nearby who would be happy to help you with traditional menus, or even creating an atmosphere of the Old World in your home or whatever location you choose to have your event. One thing for sure, you will become closer to your family members, whether those in the past, or those who are with you now. If you really want to maximize the reward of having a theme party, plan it in conjunction with a family reunion. Now there's an idea! Hmmm...

Family Vacations

We all like to go on vacations, why not plan one around the area your ancestors came from? These sort of trips can be both educational and fulfilling. This sort of vacation is much more personal than a normal holiday, and you can plan your trip around record searches, meeting distant relatives, and visiting historical sites such as old family homes, workplaces, or ports of departure. When planning a genealogy vacation, there are certain things you'll need to consider that you wouldn't with a traditional trip.


Tips for a Successful Genealogy Jaunt

Plan Your Research

For instance, if you will be conducting research you should decide which archives you will visit, and find out their locations and opening times. If other family members will be accompanying you but not taking part in the research, find out what sort of activities there are for them to pursue while you're searching for records.

Plan Logistics

Standing on the same ground or visiting a house where your ancestor lived can be one of the most thrilling experiences for a genealogist. If you will be visiting the village or town where your ancestor lived, you may want to consider staying somewhere close by. This will give you more time to enjoy the experience, and provide you enough time to explore the area. If you can, find a local history of the region, and if you're driving, don';t forget your GPS!

You will also want to allow yourself time for getting lost, speaking with local experts and residents, and taking pictures. Make sure you bring an extra briefcase, or leave room in your suitcase for any documents or relics you may bring home with you. You will also want to make sure you bring the proper attire to suit the country or location that you're visiting. Remember, you won't be able to come back the following week if you wish to visit a cemetery and it's raining, so bring sturdy shoes and an umbrella.

Learn the Language

If you're visiting a foreign country, bring a language handbook, and learn some genealogy sayings and phrases in the foreign language and practice saying them. Your local library may have language learning tapes or books. Take advantage of them, and remember, the earlier you begin learning, the more proficient you will be when you arrive at your destination.

Contact Relatives in the Area First

You won't want to just show up on someone's doorstep and announce that you're their long lost cousin! Imagine how you would feel if someone arrived on your doorstep claiming the same. Contact any relatives you would like to meet before you go. It's okay to send them a short email if you have that information, in fact that's the best way to make initial contact. After you have developed some report with them, you can telephone.


Most of All Have Fun!

Don't become stressed out or disappointed if your genealogy holiday doesn't go exactly according to plan. When one door closes, another opens, so don't fret too much if you don't find records or family members don't wish to meet. In fact, try not to make such things the point of your trip, but rather enjoy the atmosphere and architecture of the area you're visiting, and savor the fact that you're walking in your ancestor's footsteps! There are several companies online that can help you to plan a genealogy vacation. It's up to you whether you plan the visit yourself or use the help of a professional service. Using a professional will cost you more of course, but their expert advice and knowledge could save you time and energy. To find such companies, simply search the internet using the term “Genealogy Vacations.”

Planning Family Genealogy Vacations


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