"I just feel so whole" nicely sums up the entire ancestral journey. Year after year, as I take people to Scotland to research their family history, I hear participants tell me, "as soon as I stepped on Scottish soil, I felt like I was home. I knew I belonged." There is no greater, more humbling experience than traveling to the land of your ancestors. The feelings of belonging and connection are powerful and make a compelling argument for the idea of memory being passed down through our DNA.
As any family history researcher will tell you, there is great excitement when you find your ancestor in a document. Tangible verification of their existence. And there is a sense of wonder when you see their signature. It is almost as if you could reach out and touch them. Multiply that by infinity when you walk the streets they walked, see the houses they lived in, the factories they worked in, the churches they worshiped in. These moments provide a deep sense of affinity for your ancestors. A deep appreciation of their battles and struggles. A sense of pride as they overcame in order to carry on.
Traveling to the home of your ancestors takes planning. It is not enough to show up in the village, head to the local pub and start asking questions. You need to do some planning ahead of time. Do some research before you go. Learn about what repositories are available, what archival materials they hold, who can access the documents and what identification is required to research in each repository.
Make sure that your Family Tree is up to date. Make it portable. Have it on a laptop, iPad, or tablet so that you can access the information in Scotland. If you want, you can print off Family Group Sheets or create a spreadsheet and write down what you are missing and hope to find when you are in Scotland.
Create a Research Plan
- Make a list of all of the documents you already have copies or originals of. This will prevent you wasting time searching for information you already have. Remember, you will be able to see births newer than 100 years, marriage records newer than 75 years and death records newer than 50 years, so you will want to make a list of the more recent records you want to have a look and transcribe at while you are in Edinburgh.
- Think about the next steps. What questions are you hoping to answer with your onsite research? What documents would you still like to get? What else do you want to know about your ancestors?
- Write out your brick walls and think about what you want to find out to help break those down. Do you need to look at parish records, voters rolls, apprentice records, maps, directories, newspapers? This will help to focus and guide your research time.
Create a Travel Plan:
Create an Itinerary
- Prioritize what you want to see, what records you want to get. If time is limited then decide to work at only the top three. If time allows, you can get to the next items on your list.
- You may want to consult a professional genealogist before you go. This will help you to better plan your time and keep you focussed on exactly what it is that you hope to achieve during your quest to learn more about your ancestors.
Glasgow has a rich history as a working man's town. Glasgow was the main port of departure for our ancestors, thanks to the River Clyde and the Shipbuilding industry. I have to admit to not using the bus system in Glasgow. Everywhere I need to go, I walk to. However, like Edinburgh, Glasgow is really quite easy to get around in. On foot, by bus, by train or by subway. Again, Glasgow is a major hub for train travel and you can easily catch a train to almost anywhere you want to go.
Inverness.....Oh Inverness....the Highlands, the history, the scenery.
Take Time to Learn the Social History of Your Ancestors
- Visiting Museums
- Visiting Historic Sites
- Talking to Locals
- Take City Tours
- Reading, reading, reading
Discover Your Own Scottish Heritage
- Visit Pubs
- Attend Festivals
- Take part in Highland Games, Clan Gatherings, Celebrations, Re-enactments
Planning ahead will help you to make the best use of your time in Scotland. And ultimately that will make your quest to discover your ancestors and your own Scottish heritage more fulfilling. You can download an eGuide to researching your Scottish ancestry and preparing for an ancestral holiday from the VisitScotland website: http://www.visitscotland.com/en-ca/about/ancestry/start-your-ancestral-journey-to-scotland
In addition to the repository visits, time is available to travel to the area of Scotland where your ancestors lived. I provide connections to ancestral tour companies, run by genealogists in Scotland, who will give you a personalised tour of your ancestors home area including graveyards, churches, streets, business and anything else you may wish to see that is still standing.
Live Q&A with Christine