GenTraveling – Use ‘The footstep principle”


Hello GenTravelers!

Have you heard of ‘The footstep principle’?  I have LOVED this imagery, ever since I read “In the Footsteps of Ancestors” by B. Darrell Jackson in the Oct-Dec 2015 issue of NGS Magazine.

If you have this publication, go dig it out and read the entire article; but I’ll highlight a few snippets here:

“A recent article by a biographer…states that a central part of his method of biographical research is what he calls ‘the footstep principle’.

…the serious biographer must physically pursue his subject through the past. Mere archives were not enough. He must go to all the places where the subject had ever lived or worked, or traveled or dreamed…He must examine them as intelligently as possible, looking for clues, for the visible and the invisible, for the history, the geography, and the atmosphere. He must feel how they once were, must imagine what impact they might once have had.[1]”

“We can’t go back to the historical era of ancestors. We can, however, go back to their geographic places. The ‘footsteps principle” may be hard to follow at times, buy applying it can add a great deal to genealogical biography.”

“Whenever we visit a county courthouse or other archive, we may be close to where the persons being researched lived. The opportunity to view family sites closely should not be passed up. Following in the footsteps of ancestors is an integral part of doing family history.”


This 6-page article had additional ideas on where to visit (land, buildings, cemeteries, etc).  The main message though, is the same message of this here little blog!  We should all get up and GO…GenTraveling!

Are you planning your GenTraveling yet? Where do you plan to go? Be sure to share your GenTraveling Bucket list on our Bucket List Page.  GenTraveling: It’s the Real Deal Thrill!


[1] Richard Holmes, “A Quest for the Real Coleridge,” The New York Review of Books vol. 61, no. 20 (December 18, 2014),61.




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