Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Vacationing Genealogist

What do genealogists do on vacations? I'd never really given it much thought until I saw a message to a mailing list by a genealogist today who stated that he was going on vacation. He specified that there would be "no libraries, no courthouses, and no cemeteries." That got me to thinking. When is the last time I took a vacation that met all three of those criteria? I think the answer is "before I started researching the family history."

First of all, I'm a librarian. I love books, and I love to see what other libraries look like. I also like to go in and browse the history and genealogy shelves. If I haven't taken my laptop along on a trip, I may go in to use a computer to check email. (I'll admit that I haven't done this much since wireless has become widely available, but I have done it in the past.)

Courthouses. While I'm slightly less likely to visit a courthouse than a library or cemetery, I have visited courthouses either along the way or near my destination on probably 75% of my vacations of recent years.

Cemeteries. I honestly cannot think of a single vacation that I've been on where I haven't gone to at least one cemetery and probably more than one. They are like magnets. I like to go to them even if I know of no relations buried there. You can sometimes find unusual markers. If I've got a few minutes to spare, you're likely to find me stopping to check out the cemetery. I know a well-known genealogist who was speaking at the FGS conference in Boston in 2006. He had no New England ancestors of his own. While he was out walking around Boston, he found a stone in a cemetery he visited which interested him. (I think it was in Old Copps, but I don't remember for sure.) He went back and researched that individual and her family. I'm not the only genealogist who can't resist a cemetery visit!

In a couple of months, I'll be headed to the Bahamas for a few days. While I don't really have anything that I need to research while there (and my niece who is accompanying me would definitely not want to spend time researching since she's not into family history), I've already read about an historic cemetery that I want to visit. If we happen to see a library, I'm likely to go in just to say I was there and to see what the similarities and differences are between that country's libraries and ours.

In short, I just can't imagine a vacation void of libraries, courthouses, and cemeteries--at least not since I began researching the family history. Of course, those of us who work full-time, welcome the opportunity to use our vacations to further our research.

What about you? Do you visit libraries, courthouses, and cemeteries when you vacation?


Jasia said...

I don't think I've ever gone to a courthouse, library, or cemetery while on vacation.

The closest I've come to doing anything genealogy related while on vacation was stopping in at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City when we vacationed in the area. I was only in the building for 3-4 hours, more or less just to say I'd been there.

Thomas MacEntee said...

I usually will go to a cemetery before a courthouse or library. In fact I will be flying back home to New York this weekend and I am in a quandry: I want to visit the Montrepose Cemetery in Kingston, NY where my McEntee relatives are buried but also want to visit the New Paltz Rural Cemetery in New Paltz, NY where my MacEntee relatives are buried. What's a guy to do? I don't have time for both . . .

Becky said...

When I was younger, I used to make fun of my cousin because she and her husband spent most of their vacations in libraries, courthouses and cemeteries. Then I got bit by the genealogy bug and for the past 20 years have spent every vacation I've taken going to those places!

Elizabeth said...

My husband and I *always* hit the cemeteries, wherever we go, but first we check with Find A Grave to see if there are any photo requests in a cemetery in/near our destination. Last December, we tromped through 2 feet of snow to get photos in Westford, MA. Weird, I know, but it's our "family thing." My kid must think all parks have big, rectangular slabs all over them.

Maggie said...

I do! I do! I do! I absolutely love to check out libraries and cemeteries while on vacation. If we are running a little off schedule my hubby will say no library today unless you hurry up! Bah!

Now, I'm a librarian, too. But, I'm not into searching the family tree. I'm all about the architecture when it comes to courthouses, I'm all about the facilities when it comes to libraries, and I'm all about reading stones - hot day, cooling on a slab - and rubbings in a cemetery. Thanks for this fun post! :D

Apple said...

I have never visited a courthouse or library while on vacation. I do love to take day tours of historic areas and they sometimes include a cemetery. My trip in April will be the first time I've traveled to research my family history and while I'm looking forward to it I'm thinking of it as a research trip rather than a vacation.

Janice said...


You most certainly are NOT the only person who spends part of their vacation time in a cemetery.... ME TOO!!

My family gets a little freaked out when I'm visiting them and say, "Sorry, I gotta leave, I have a date with the dead" lol

Blog: Cow Hampshire

Terry Snyder said...

You mean there are actually people who don't plan vacations based on what cemeteries, courthouses or libraries are nearby! I can't imagine.

Bronwyn said...

You mean some people don't plan their holidays around some kind of ancestral activity - weird!! (Terry, I wrote this before seeing your comment, so have left it unaltered...)
I spend so much time in libraries that I am regularly asked if I am a librarian. You might find this article of interest: