May 22, 2017

Road Trip to the Past - Day 1: “Fun on 81” or “Storied Pasts”

The first leg of our trip was up interstate 81 to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Because travel would take all day, we had no agenda other than to get there. We packed a mix of CDs for the car but never actually listened to them. Instead we talked about family history – stories about immediate family, memories of parents and grandparents, and secondhand stories about great grandparents and further back. Some of these secondhand stories came from my in-laws. Some came from my wife’s research. The ones from my wife had been shared with her parents before and were often met with blank stares or lukewarm interest. But as this trip went on and we got more familiar with the citizens of this family tree, these stories became more real, colorful and suddenly had context and texture.

I felt like the roles were suddenly reversed. As a child at family reunions, I didn’t soak in the stories and characters of my family tree. I wasn’t interested in it. I was more interested in playing with cousins of similar age. I’m sure the older set at these reunions were frustrated at the disinterest showed by their younger counterparts. Now, as an amateur genealogist sharing facts and stories with older family members, I often encounter apathy or mild interest at best.

It’s not until someone becomes immersed in family history (intellectually, geographically, or otherwise) that the spark is ignited within them. And that’s what this trip was all about. My wife commented that her interest had waned a bit in recent years. But now she was on fire again for her family history!

TIP: Download your computer files and research onto a flash drive or laptop so you can refer to it on the road. Also, a personal hotspot or mifi is helpful to do research on the road or in areas where an internet connection is unavailable.

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