Marian Pierre-Louis writes of the importance of “getting local” with research in her Roots and Rambles blog and I couldn’t agree more. we are fortunate to have great tools to take us beyond the letters, records and even artifacts that might tell us stories of our ancestors. Not just maps, but street level views from Google and photos both modern and historical from sources like Historypin can help us round out what life was like for them. But there is nothing like being there.
I remember a research trip my mother and I took to Kendal in the Lake District. LIke many market towns in the UK, Kendal had preserved parts of its town centre and some significant buildings from the era when my ancestors lived there. We walked by some of the same architecture that my family would have walked by and we trod the cobbled streets they would have known. We got a sense of the life they had much more vividly than from all we had read about them. What’s more, we had opportunities to learn more about the area and local history we might not have come across from remote research.
A research trip to your family’s locality is not much about the things you will look up in repositories; it’s about the feel of the place, the things they might have seen each day, the spaces that were significant to them.