Hello GenTravelers! Please let me introduce you to this week’s GenTraveler…
Gail Tobias Smith has been doing genealogy personally since 1992 and started her business in 2014.
She specializes in certain areas of the country and has done extensive research in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado. She has done research in Ireland and Germany as well.
How often do you go GenTraveling?
I have gone GenTraveling many times in the United States. Most of this has been for my personal genealogy. Whenever I travel I always look for connections to towns and cities in my family tree before the road trip. I have enjoyed wandering through cemeteries and photographing the stones of family members. I also include any points of interest in the cemetery; a chapel, signage or significant landmarks. I always tour the town or city I am visiting and make it a point to check out the church that my family would have attended. I love photographing the town hall or city center, war memorials and buildings of significance. Often times I have learned about an ancestor by talking to a server in a restaurant or a local shop keeper.
What types of repositories are your favorite to visit while GenTraveling?
In small towns I have found the local library to be a great source. Typically there is a local historian or genealogist who seems to know everyone in town. I have visited a few courthouses which always prove to be a great source of information. I look for other repositories when GenTraveling, such as archives and historical societies.
Do you have any tips on how to make GenTraveling a success?
To be successful when GenTraveling you need to plan out your trip and be prepared. I have a small black rolling bag that holds my laptop and iPad and all of my office supplies. I always bring along my portable scanner and my camera. I like to take pictures on my phone and my camera. At the end of the day I download the photos from my camera (which is digital and has wifi) and compare with the pictures I took on my phone.
I carry a lot of office supplies; extra batteries for my scanner & camera, cords for my electronics (scanner, camera, computer, iPad, iPhone), a car charger is essential, pencils, pens of various colors, mini stapler, whiteout, mini scissors, small flashlight, earbuds, post it notes, business cards, note pads, highlighters, thumb drives, a small lighted magnifying glass, snacks (I’m always hungry), roll of quarters for parking (small towns typically do not take credit cards) and instructions for camera and scanner (unless you have them stored on your computer). This always seems like a lot of “stuff” but it really isn’t, it all fits neatly in my rolling office. Keep a list of what you need and that way you can pack quickly and efficiently.
Before you head out make sure you know the hours of operation of a library, court house or any other facility you want to visit. Know what the rules are, what you can bring in with you and what is not allowed. Some facilities offer lockers, most do not.
Tell us about your favorite GenTraveling excursion.
One of my favorite GenTraveling experiences was in Texas. I was in a small town with my husband looking for any signs of a main street or any town buildings; sadly none remained. We saw a man mowing his grass and asked if he knew of anyone who would know about the family we were looking for. He sent us to another house, and the husband and wife were working in the open air garage. They were warm and welcoming and sent us to the ministers house. We drove a few blocks to his house and he and his wife invited us in and gave us the history of the town and the family we were inquiring about. They also gave us directions to the homestead and the local cemetery. This wonderful tiny town and the people who lived there could not have been kinder.
The tiny cemetery had a wooden box on a stand where you could sign in as a visitor. I took a peek at the most recent visitors and recognized the family name we were looking for. How serendipitous!! His email and phone number were listed as well. I added our information to the list and when we returned home I contacted him and we have been in touch ever since, sharing genealogy, stories and family lore.