Genealogy Vacation Tips

Review archival photos and artifacts before taking your genealogy vacation.
Review archival photos and artifacts before taking your genealogy vacation.

I love to combine vacations with genealogy research trips. I experience deja vu and can almost feel my ancestor’s spirits guiding me. To walk the same streets, eat the same foods and hear traditional music and language of my ancestors can be quite emotional. I sometimes feel pure joy and incredible sadness. But overall, a genealogy vacation can be exciting and rewarding for the whole family.


This year, my itinerary will include the Caribbean, Mississippi and Louisiana and England. Using oral histories, family stories, inherited photos and artifacts, I will dig for more stories. I planned months in advance. I also set appointments and allotted time to improvise or change plans.


Right now, I am finalizing a trip to New Orleans and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. My current research project is about family recipes—especially gumbo. There is a community of “gumbo people” that I hope to meet. I learned that you could do a lot of cooking, eating and tasting in a few days if you make a good plan.


My genealogy trip will also include family gravesites, churches and neighborhood landmarks. Colleagues have already made introductions for site visits and events. Most importantly, I did my homework and developed a few checklists.

My Top 5 Genealogy Vacation Tips:

  1. -Choose your research project: a specific family, individual or tradition.
  2. -Know where you are going. Call your relatives or their neighbors to plan a visit. Check the web for the church, courthouse, and libraries to confirm a time, location, and direction. Official buildings can close for repair without notice!
  3. -Learn what sources and events are available. Some original source records require prior reservations. Events can change venue and details. The drama of your ancestors’ lives is documented in a variety of newspapers, court, land transfer, tax, voting, school, health records and more. If your ancestor lived near a county line, you might find records in two different counties. Click here for a link to tips for onsite genealogy research.
  4. -Map out your strategy. Get familiar with the area using various maps like highway or Google maps. Small and large-scale topographic maps can help greatly with logistics.
  5. -Packing Tips: I pack as light as possible— notebook, pedigree charts or family group record, pencils (many repositories don’t allow pens!) camera, tripod, portable scanner, mobile phone, batteries, memory cards, magnifying glass, tape measure, white archival gloves, comfortable clothes and shoes.

Do you combine vacation and genealogy trips? What are your tips?