Travel can be such a rewarding experience for everyone with lasting positive results. What’s even more rewarding is knowledge of one’s lineage and family history. Coupling travel with the tracing of one’s family history, or genealogy, can be quite fulfilling for not only the traveler or researcher, but for their families, communities, and following generations.
Tony Burroughs, an internationally-known genealogist and founder and CEO of the Center for Black Genealogy*, is more than familiar with tracing family roots and travel. It has been his love and passion for decades. His immersion into genealogy and travel has transformed the course of his life—allowing him to research, lecture and teach others about genealogy.
Here’s a vignette from Tony as found on his website, http://www.tonyburroughs.com/, describing his love for genealogy:
“I love genealogy. I love researching in libraries and archives around the country and discovering new ancestors. I love staying up all night, and sometimes into the wee hours of the morning researching on the Internet. I love solving genealogy riddles, overcoming challenges and breaking through genealogy brick walls. I love meeting new relatives. I love interviewing older family members, and younger ones too. I love going through old dusty boxes of family papers and photographs and seeing what my ancestors looked like. I love traveling to places where my ancestors lived and walking in their shoes. I love teaching other people how to search for their ancestors. And, I love watching and hearing the excitement when people find their relatives, or find their ancestors listed in records. I love everything about genealogy.”
Best Places to Visit to Trace your Roots
Tony Burroughs has traveled extensively and become well-versed on the best cities to travel to for genealogical research. We will explore the first of his recommended cities in this series: Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is the perfect place to start to research one’s family tree. Located in the area are some of the most comprehensive archives spanning centuries. From governmental-run agencies to institutions of higher learning, researchers should seek out resources at the following places:
1. The Library of Congress: the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections. http://www.loc.gov/
2. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): the nation’s record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by them forever. Those valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you. www.archives.gov/
3. The National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR): is comprised of two collections– The Americana Collection and the NSDAR Archives. The Americana Collection offers more than 4,000 diverse American imprints and manuscripts. The focus of the collection is on Colonial America, the Revolutionary War Era, and the early Republic, but the breadth of the collection spans five centuries. The DAR treasury includes diaries and letters; military papers; governmental papers; birth, baptismal and marriage records; autographs; newspapers; maps; legal and court records; and music. Visitors to the Americana Room can view the collection’s holdings arranged in exhibits which change periodically to reflect different themes. Past exhibits have captured the essence of the American Revolution, illustrated schooling in America, and showcased Signers of the United States Constitution. http://www.dar.org/
Additionally, Washington, D.C. is a most-desirable destination because of the rich heritage of our nation and endless sightseeing opportunities, many of which are free, that are found there. (www.Washington.org)
• Smithsonian Museum Campus: The Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum and research complex—includes 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park. Most Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are free.
• The Capitol
• The White House
• Washington Monument
• Lincoln Memorial
• Nearby historic cities in neighboring Virginia and Maryland
Washington, D.C. also has a number of institutions of higher learning that house libraries and resources that may be beneficial to genealogical research, including, but not limited to:
• George Washington University
• Howard University
• Georgetown University
• American University
• University of Maryland-College Park
Next Up in “Tracing your roots through travel with Genealogist Tony Burroughs, Part II”: Salt Lake City, Utah
Before you plan your trip to research your genealogy, please consider these informative steps found in
Tony Burrough’s General Tips for Tracing Your Family Tree:
1. Write your autobiography – You are the first link in your family tree. Record your life story and what you remember about your relatives and ancestors.
2. Interview all living relatives – Records on the Internet and in libraries, archives and courthouses will be around long after you are gone. You have plenty of time to research them. However, your living relatives have a limited time here on earth. Get to them and record their stories while they are still around and their minds are still sharp.
3. Explore the Family Archives – Search for documents, books photos and artifacts around your house and your relatives’ houses that mention relatives’ and ancestor’s names or images. Have relatives identify photos and label them.
4. Visit the family cemetery – Photograph the grave markers and get records from the cemetery office. Take your children to your family cemetery when you get records and tell your children stories about their ancestors.
Find more details about these tips and others in his book, Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree.
Many thanks to Tony Burroughs for his contribution of time, information and resources to this article series. (http://www.tonyburroughs.com/bio.html)
*The Center for Black Genealogy is an innovative educational, historical and cultural institution dedicated to using genealogy to positively impact communities around the globe. The Center will support cultural enrichment at all levels of education. For memberships and donations go to the website: http://www.centerforblackgenealogy.org/