Sunday, May 20, 2012

Family Vacations and Genealogy Experiences

This past week we took a week off from the normal routines of life to have a short vacation. Now that our children are no longer teenagers, my husband and I are able to get away with much less fuss, we just leave the kids at home. With a little envy, I have enjoyed reading the posts of Randy Seaver about his Legacy cruise with his wife. I am not sure a cruise is my cup of tea, but we might have to try one just to see. For me the best vacation includes a little genealogy research, even though my husband is not really interested he tolerates my interest in this. While at his mother's home this week I shared some of my current projects with her. Over the years I have enjoyed many family vacations, both as a child and later as a parent. We need these times to recharge our systems and they can also incorporate some history, both personal and cultural. Here are some of my favorites.

Our first major trip was to Yellowstone Park in 1969. On our way there we stopped at Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho. We were there on July 21, and someone in the campground had a small television. It was an awesome experience to watch man's first walk on the moon in this very unusual setting. My youngest brother became very sick the next day and so we spent some time getting medical attention for him. We continued on to Yellowstone and though we moved at a slower pace, we were able to enjoy the wonderful scenic natural sites there. It is one place I would like to revisit someday.

The second trip was to southern California in 1971. The year before we went to Lake Shasta for a family reunion and I guess my parents felt we could make it to southern California in our yellow station wagon, pulling our travel trailer, with the six of us. We made it almost halfway, to Vallejo, when we hit a bump on the freeway overpass and our travel trailer disconnected from the car. In shock, we all watched it cross over eight lanes of freeway, without hitting anything else, and exploded into a million pieces on the shoulder of the road. That has cured me permanently from wanting to ever haul a travel trailer. Mom said it was actually to our benefit as we stayed in motels the rest of the trip. We were able to see Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm and the San Diego Zoo, before heading up the coast for the drive home. We stopped in San Simeon to tour the Hearst Castle, which was the highlight of the trip for me. It was my first real glimpse at historic architecture and probably lead to my fascination of family history. On the way home we stopped at Crater Lake, where my brother's new hat from Disneyland blew over the edge and down a steep embankment. I still remember my Dad pulling him back from going over the edge.

The third trip was to Florida in 1973. This was the first time for our family to fly in an airplane. We made three connecting flights there and back. Today I try very hard to have no stopovers in my flight plans. Using a rental car we visited Cape Canaveral Space Center, St. Augustine, Cypress Gardens, the Gulf of Mexico, Weeki Wachee Springs, and of course Disney World. My best memory of the space center was seeing part of a huge rocket being moved by truck. The gulf and the shows at Cypress Gardens were great. My brother loved the lovely young women dressed in colorful hooped skirts who seemed to be everywhere. At Wiki Waki Springs we watched a beautiful underwater show. We enjoyed Disney World, which opened just two years before. We spent a couple of days going to all of the attractions and rides. My favorite place was St. Augustine, where history literally comes to life. I still have keepsakes bought there. By then I had been severely bitten by the genealogy bug.

Our own family with six children has only flown together once, and that was to southern California in 1994. We had arranged to rent a van upon arrival, but they did not have any. That meant we had to use two rental cars in a very foreign driving environment. Somehow, we survived. We went to Sea World, Universal Studios, Disneyland, and Knotts Berry Farm. Because we went in February there were very few people and we seldom stood in lines. We stayed in the same motel, but unfortunately they did not have any suites or adjoining rooms. That meant that the girls were in one room and the boys in another on the other side. This was okay until the last night when our daughter became sick and the bathroom light was burnt out. By the time we got to the airport we were exhausted and not ready for the long flight home, but at least there was no stopover.

So, you might be wondering what these vacation tales have to do with genealogy. What they are, is part of our family history, moments we spent together and shared experiences. These types of events should be recorded and become a part of the family story. Usually pictures are taken, souvenirs collected, and stories retold for future generations. My father was the planner for most of our family's trips and I have been the planner for most our family trips. These plans and daily journals kept of the journey can add to the overall story.

Whether you camp out in a tent (which is not one of my favorite things, but I will do for the family), have a staycation in your own backyard or go to family reunions in the mountains, preserve those memories.  You might even include a trip to a cemetery, courthouse, ancestral homes and sites where they lived, or a visit to older relatives who may hold key pieces of your family's past. When you are finished recording your memories of the event, share it with the others involved and add their memories as well. Happy travels to you and yours!

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