I’m searching for ways to write a travelogue without going day-by-day and making it sound like, we did this and we did that… This is one that I wrote a few months ago and updated today for inclusion in my photo book from the trip. I’m not saying this is the best way, just exploring.
In Search of Ancestors
My dream genealogy trip and so much more…
Most genealogists dream of a trip to Europe. Not me. I dreamed of an ancestral trip to New England for years. 2012 was the year! Some of my ancestors were living in parts of New England as early as the 1600s; others were here in the 1700s. During this trip Dave and I were constantly moving as we looked, experienced, located, toured, and touched. We wanted to develop a feel for these ancestral homelands, to understand the lives of the people living there and to absorb the historical perspective of the area.
• Located the land where my family lived in northern New York.
• Visited the farmstead where my 5-great grandparents lived and raised their children in Vermont.
• Experienced an “aha!” moment as we talked with a town historian who welcomed us into her mid-19th century home. I knew my ancestors migrated from Whiting, Vermont, to Stockholm, New York. Resources indicate that these New Englanders typically migrated in the winter; the question was: HOW did they cross the Adirondack Mountains in winter in the early 1800s? The local historian told us that the travelers followed the frozen rivers! What a concept! Now I envision bundled-up people pulling sleds piled with a few belongings and others herding sheep and other animals up the frozen rivers.
• Discovered War of 1812 connections to follow up on.
• Touched the monument in New Hampshire with my 5-great grandfather’s name as serving in the Revolutionary War from that community. Wrote down all of the names on the monument; think those names may hold clues for future research.
• Ferried the 27 miles from Hyannis to Nantucket Island and toured the island and several historic sites. One of my ancestral families was among the original purchasers of this island and two other families were among the early settlers.
• Stood where my 5-great grandfather’s unit was camped at Valley Forge.
• Found significant clues hidden in a couple books at the Godfrey Library in Connecticut—if only we had known earlier, we could have looked at the original records in Shoreham, Vermont.
• at the Court House in Canton, New York.
• at town halls and libraries in Whiting, Shoreham, and Middlebury, Vermont.
• at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston.
• in the Barbour Collection at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford.
• in the American Genealogical and Biographical Index, as well as the open stacks, at the Godfrey Library in Middletown, Connecticut.
All of these are great places for genealogical research! We scanned records and books, we photocopied when that was more practical, and we purchased maps and books, when possible.
Genealogy gear travel kit
I travel with lots of electronic gadgets (digital camera, flat-bed scanner, FlipPal, DocuPen, Magic Wand, laptop computer, iPhone, etc.) so I have whatever is needed at the time. I did not use the FlipPal, DocuPen or Magic Wand on this trip and we were fine without my small, portable printer which I elected to leave at home. We knew ahead of time we would not be doing cemetery research, so did not take our gravestone rubbing materials or cleaning/repair kit.
• Drove right to the apartment where Dave and I lived for nearly a year (1969-1970) in Massachusetts.
• Met the current owners who showed us the old apartment.
• Ate at the restaurant where we celebrated Valentine’s Day 42 years ago.
• Toured the “closed” Fort Devens Army base where Dave was stationed.
• Shopped at the mall where we worked during that year.
Sightseeing and historical excursions
• Enjoyed an evening listening to Latin jazz music at a black Jazz Bar in Detroit.
• Maneuvered among the hordes of people on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
• Visited Dave’s cousin in Buffalo, New York.
• Observed that the Erie Canal is still used for travel from the Atlantic Ocean through the Great Lakes and watched a pleasure boat go through a lock on the canal.
• Cruised through the 1000 Islands on the St. Lawrence Seaway.
• Watched an ocean liner go through the Eisenhower Lock farther up on the St. Lawrence.
• Toured the Olympic Ice Skating Rink at Lake Placid.
• Toured a maple syrup farm.
• Collected rocks along a stream under a covered bridge; saw several covered bridges.
• Saw flood damage from the remnants of 2011 Hurricane Irene.
• Toured the historic sites of Concord and Lexington, and walked the Freedom Trail in Boston.
• Appreciated Boston’s subway “the Tube.”
• Enjoyed the street vendors and entertainment on a lovely Sunday afternoon in Boston.
• Visited Valley Forge, as well as Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Mint.
• Toured the Hershey factory.
• Visited the memorial for Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
• My direct line Nantucket ancestors were not whalers as previously thought. They left the island before the whaling started, although other family members stayed and some are still there. Our tour guide, in fact, was a very distant cousin.
• Valley Forge wasn’t the snow-covered quaint camp that we see in pictures. The ground had been farmed the previous season and the winter was mild and rainy. Valley Forge was a muddy, disease-infested mess!
• Flight 93 did not crash in a farm field, as the media indicated. It was a strip mine area, undergoing reclamation to a natural habitat. Because of all the mountains in the area, it is surprising that they didn’ty crash into a mountain.
• Experienced perfect weather – upper 70s and lower 80s the entire time.
• Stayed 5 nights at B&B’s – gracious hostesses, beautiful settings, delicious food! When we left home, we only had lodging reservations for the first four nights. After that, we mostly used an app on my iPhone to play a day or two ahead as we could determine our schedule and location.
• Ate lobster, shrimp, crab cakes, clam chowder, and “fish & chips” (New England jargon for fish and French fries). Enjoyed an assortment of fresh fruit at the B&B’s and some of the hotel breakfast buffets.
• Bought some clothes at the mall where I used to work—they had a Macy’s – oh, my, I fell in love with that store! Wish we had one in the Des Moines area.
Gone seventeen days, took roughly 2,000 pictures, drove 3,850 miles, met many wonderful, helpful people, and spent plenty of money! Vacations for us are learning opportunities; this one was an awesome success!