google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: May 2013

6 Steps to Choosing a Family History Vacation

The summer is upon us and my thoughts turn to family history travels. How about you? Do you have one or
two ancestral homelands on your bucket list? How do you decide which one to choose?

Traveling to an ancestral homeland can be an incredible journey with wonderful rewards both in finding documents and spiritually. I try to take one or two family history trips a year outside of my one day jaunts to archives. For me, one of this year’s big family history trips will be a tour of Quebec.  I am 12th generation French Canadian; however, our family has been in Ontario for the last three generations. My sister and I will be taking our parents on a tour of Quebec.  I’ve mapped out the towns and paths of our French Canadian ancestors back to 1650. We will be walking in our ancestor’s footsteps, absorbing the culture, visiting one or two churches and cemeteries along the way and perhaps even an original homestead.  This trip is now on the schedule for September so watch for more as we get closer, my plan is to blog the journey and I’ll share with you how are plans are shaping up as we move closer.

However, in the meantime how do you go about choosing which ancestral homeland should be next up in your family history travels? Most of us have a limited travel budget and limited time to travel so it always becomes a bit of a conundrum on which ancestral town to choose for your next trip.

When you plan a family history trip, you want to get the best bang for your dollars. You want to have something to show for your time and effort in documents, history and social history. This can’t happen without some planning and making sure your family history vacation will meet your expectations. Randomly choosing an ancestral town offers no guarantees, a little homework is in order. Here’s six steps to consider before taking the plunge and choosing your next family history vacation.

  1. Identify your bucket list of the ancestral hometowns you wish to visit. We all have that list, but not every stop is created equal. It’s important to devise a short list and then do some research to narrow your choices further.
  2. Start with some research to help identify which hometown would give you the most bang for your buck. What archives are available? What is available in those archives? Don’t arrive at an archive to learn the documents are held in another location thousands of miles away, or they just don’t exist because they were destroyed in a fire or never existed because they out of the date range when the area began keeping such documents. A little online legwork, even a phone call or email can help you get a good grasp in advance. You also want to choose a hometown that will also offer plenty of sightseeing and social history to round out your experience. Once you’ve identified the hometowns that have research and culture to offer it’s time to weigh out your choices.
  3.  Should you hire a professional genealogist and designate your travel dollars somewhere else? Would it be cheaper to hire a genealogist rather than spend thousands of dollars on a trip? Sometimes. Weigh out this option. If the large cost of a trip is prohibitive or you feel there are not enough records to justify the cost of a trip consider obtaining these documents are best by hiring a professional genealogist. At a fraction of the price, you can have your documents and save your money for another bucket list ancestral hometown.
  4. How much can you realistically fit into your schedule? Is the ground you want to cover greater than the time or funds you have available? Sometimes a trip can be overwhelming, many archives, and a lot of sightseeing. It’s best to prioritize a trip into ‘must see” and “must do” lists. Then create a to-do list if you have extra time. If you over schedule yourself you’ll crash and burn, spinning your wheels because you’ve taken on more than you can process both mentally and physically. Plan a schedule and a pace that will allow you to be present in the moment making the most of each minute of the day. Often when we take a big trip we realize it might be our only opportunity and we over extend ourselves and in the end we are so overwhelmed, we end up accomplishing little or not being present in the moment. You don’t want to spend your entire time inside an archive, choose a destination that provides a nice combination of research and tourist options that allows you a pace to appreciate where you are and be present in the moment. 
  5.  Do you bring the family? It depends. I’ve done it both ways. I have a hard time researching when I know family is off doing something else and I might be missing on some great family time or they may be waiting for me and I feel rushed. I always weigh out how much research time vs. tourist time I will have before making the decision to bring the family. If I think I can balance it with the family, I will bring them assuming they want to come. However, if it’s shaping up to be a heavy research trip, I tend to go without family of course with the promise we have a family vacation on the agenda later. 
  6.  If there are no records to be found, why should you visit? Sometimes you’ve exhausted the archives, perhaps you found everything currently available on your ancestor but that can’t stop you from simply walking in their footsteps, absorbing the culture and learning the history of the area. For me equally important as the documents I may find is absorbing the space and atmosphere where my ancestors once lived. As long as you’re comfortable with this option, you can have an equally rewarding and fulfilling research trip and never find one document with your ancestors name on it. 

Before you spend a dime, do your homework and choose the family history vacation that has the ability to meet your research needs and vacation expectations.

Discover Your Ancestors From The United Kingdom!

Do you have an ancestor or two that arrived from the United Kingdom? I know many of my readers here in Canada, the United States and Australia fall into this category and are going to be very interested in reading this new online magazine, Discover Your Ancestors Periodical. 

Discover Your Ancestors is an affordable UK based digital magazine that is geared to the beginner and intermediate researcher. If you're looking to learn more about the social history of your UK ancestors, if you wish to expand your  archive knowledge and learn research tips from UK experts then this magazine is not too be missed. 

Discover Your Ancestors, the magazine, is brought to you by the same great folks known for the Discover Your Ancestors bookazine. Now you can receive all the great features of their yearly bookazine, in this monthly periodical.

I love this magazine for its wonderful varied content. Discover Your Ancestors offers a nice variety of articles including everything from social history and case studies to research tips and interviews.  

You’ve often heard me preach the virtues of social history. It plays such a significant role in giving context and background knowledge for your research as well as writing your family history stories. When I saw so many wonderful social history articles in this first issue, I was sold.

Aside from the social history articles, the research articles and a wonderful author interview, suggests this magazine is on the right tract. I know my readers, researchers and writers alike are going to love it. 

Discover Your Ancestors is a wonderful resource for those researching their UK ancestors and want to be immersed in the time and place all while learning tips from UK experts.

As proof, here is a list of some of the great articles you’ll find in Issue No. 1 of Discover Your Ancestors.

Those Magnificent Men looks at the first British pilots, and how you can learn more about them online.

Suffer the Little Children by Sharon Brookshaw takes an in-depth look at child labour in England.

In A Ruff Crowd, we stroll inside a Tudor drinking establishment to see just whom you just might encounter in this exclusive excerpt from the new book Ye Olde Good Inn Guide, by James Moore and Paul Nero. 

Place in Focus takes an in-depth look at the various counties, issue one looks at Essex, one of the oldest counties of England.

Under research advice, Simon Fowler walks us through the UK archives, how to find what is online and where to find what’s not online, which is quite a bit! If you need some understanding of the UK archives, then Back to Paper is a-must read.

Joining the Dots looks at birth, marriage and death records since civil registration in 1837, how to break down brick walls with researcher and writer Jenny Jones. 

Writers and readers alike will love the Interview with Steve Robinson author of the genealogy thrillers In The Blood, To The Grave, and his newest book The Last Queen of England.

One thing I want to point out, Discover Your Ancestors is an easy read, great for beginners and intermediate researchers. The articles are clear, informative and with down to earth take away advice. 

Discover Your Ancestors is very reasonable priced at 12.00 pounds for 12 issues, which works out to about $1.50 an issue for my Canadian and American friends. Where can you find a magazine with such knowledgeable information for $1.50 a month, cheaper than the coffee you’re going to buy to drink while you’re devouring this informative new magazine.

If you're looking to expand your knowledge of UK research, this new online periodical, Discover Your Ancestors is shaping up to be a great resource.

(I enjoyed the magazine so much I have partnered with Discover Your Ancestors and I may make a small commission should you choose to sign up.) 

New Scrivener Tutorial - How to Use Comments

I've added a new Scrivener tutorial to our video library. This week, we take a look at comments and how to use them in writing your stories.

If you're new to Scrivener be sure to check out our Scrivener page and learn more about this fantastic tool for family history writers. You can find more mini-webinars in our Scrivener series on our You Tube channel.

Discover Your Ancestors - New Online Magazine

I was recently contacted by the publishers of a new online magazine, Discover Your Ancestors. Discover Your Ancestors produces a yearly bookazine and is now filling in the gap with Discover Your Ancestors Periodical. I am intrigued with this new online magazine and I thought I would share with you some of the details today. Discover Your Ancestors is a UK based magazine with a focus on newcomers to family history while also offering something for the intermediate level genealogist. I'll be taking some time this weekend to explore Discover Your Ancestors, I hope you'll join me, let me know what you think? 



Discover Your Ancestors issue 2 now on sale.

Discover Your Ancestors Periodical launches in May 2013.

After a very successful launch issue of Discover Your Ancestors annual bookazine, we are delighted to announce the publication of the second issue.

Both helping newcomers to family history research and reinspiring the more seasoned researcher, the long awaited Discover Your Ancestors issue 2 is available from WHSmith and other quality news outlets both in the UK and overseas.

“We are told that Discover Your Ancestors plays a vital role for budding family historians as it welcomes and encourages the next generation of family history researchers” says magazine publisher, Mark Galbraith. “For many of us family history research is interesting and can be made all the more so through really understanding how our ancestors lived their lives ” he continues. “It is time to show the uninitiated just how much pleasure can be had from growing one’s tree with the myriad resources now available”.

“In response to overwhelming reader enquiries and demand, we are very excited about the launch of our new online magazine – Discover Your Ancestors Periodical. This monthly online magazine has been developed in response to the many readers who would like to see more, but wish to read their favorite magazines using a variety of formats, Mr. Galbraith continues. “We launched this brand new service in May2013, and are now delivering our readers a top quality digital magazine every month for just £1 (GBP) per month on subscription. The subscription price has been kept low in order to encourage as many people as possible to sign up, whilst still retaining the high quality of absorbing content produced in print. We invite everyone - past print readers and brand new readers - to pre-register their interest at

For back issue enquiries of Discover Your Ancestors please call +44 1296 631273.

My Interview on What's Up Genealogy?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with Caroline Pointer from the blog and the
genealogy show known as What's Up Genealogy? 

Every Friday evening Caroline reviews the news of the week, offers tips and chats with a special guest on her Google+ Hangout.

Caroline was kind enough to invite me this week. We talked about The Armchair Genealogist, the writing program Scrivener and writing family history.

Unfortunately we couldn't get the video working on my end, so I apologize you can only hear me, but of course you can see Caroline and her panel. Technology never comes through when your counting on it. We also pre-recorded this episode due to Caroline's busy schedule this week.

Regardless, we had a great chat and I hope you enjoy this episode and check out all of Caroline's other episodes while your at it.