Genealogy Travel Tips (Part 3): While There

Talk to People

Talking to local librarians, people on the street, or other local people can offer insights and open gates that you may not have considered before.

A churchyard in Randalstown.
© Julie Medlock Flake

In Randalstown, we were looking for the graves of the family of my ancestor’s brother that were listed as being in the Old Presbyterian Churchyard. After searching the cemetery in a drizzle, we couldn’t find the headstones. There was a funeral in the main church so we checked in the auxiliary building. We found people in the upstairs kitchen preparing a meal and one of them happened to be the caretaker. He provided us with a map of the graveyard and lots of local history.

The following day, after attending a Presbyterian meeting in Killraughts, the minister’s wife invited us to their home for lunch and her husband showed us a portrait of their first minister, who happened to be one of my ancestor’s son-in-law.

Later, in Cork City, we attended a local congregation of our church. Many of the members were warm in their welcomes and were interested in what our plans were. One person we talked with was from the area we were heading to that afternoon. He gave us several ideas of books we could get information from. We also found my husband’s 3rd cousin in the congregation, whom he had never met before. The cousin and his wife were visiting Ireland from Arizona.

Review Information While There

Reviewing the information you find in repositories and other locations may also open new avenues for exploration.

My list of document to view at PRONI was so long that it took both my husband and me requesting documents (5 at a time) all day. Luckily it was the day they were open late. We spent a little time reading and marveling at the age of the documents we were holding. We had only scheduled two days at PRONI, so we didn’t have a lot of time to analyze each document. We were allowed to take pictures and I intended to review the documents in the evening. Had I done so, I would have found the location of the first farm my ancestors lived in after they were married.

Take Notes

There’s no way you will remember everything you find out, so take notes.

We made brief notes as we went (including what we had to eat). Each evening I would write more details of our experiences and findings. This has been a great source as I continue to disseminate the information we collected on the trip.

Be Flexible

Just because it’s on your itinerary doesn’t mean you have to do it (unless your on a guided tour, maybe). You may change your mind about going to a place or you may run out of time.

Our first Saturday in County Antrim, we planned for what I called our cemetery day. There were four or five cemeteries on our itinerary for that day as we made our way from Randalstown to Coleraine. As the day wore on, it became clear that we weren’t going to have time to go to all of them. We chose to skip the cemetery that was for a family of unknown relationship to my ancestors.

While we were in certain places, ideas came to me that I hadn’t considered before. In Randalstown, after arriving in the place, I felt like we should go to the library. Upon inquiring, we were handed several archival boxes of unorganized local history and seated at a small table. Combing through the papers, we found lots of treasures, including a building survey that helped identify which building were standing when my ancestors were there. We took a short walking tour and identified the places, which helped me feel connected to the place.

Take Time to Sightsee

The Giant’s Causeway.
© Julie Medlock Flake

Is the place you’re going famous for something? Is your ancestor connected to any places? Are there things nearby that are interesting to you? Make time to see them.

After a day and a half of traveling, we spent four days doing genealogy; researching at PRONI, visiting places, and tramping through graveyards. The fifth day we scheduled as a sightseeing day along the northern coast of County Antrim. We spent the day crossing a rope bridge 100 feet over the sea, dipping our toes in the North Atlantic Sea, seeing the natural formations and learning the myth of the Giant’s Causeway, and viewing castle ruins. Taking time to explore these and other during our trip prevented genealogy burnout.

Next week: When you get back.

You can read about our adventures in my Ireland Genealogy Trip series.