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         Trips are about where you go and who goes with you. Each one is different. Instead of providing a formula for a genealogy trip, I’ll describe one I made with my grandfather seven years ago…


         It was one of those high school summers where every other week had a planned activity—yearbook camp, Girls State, college preview days—and the empty weeks begged to be filled as to thwart boredom.

         During one such week, I visited my grandparents in Vidalia “where the onions grow,” Georgia. While there, I persuaded my grandfather to take a day trip across the state to the west Georgia county where he grew up and to essentially walk me through his youth.

         I brought along a tape recorder, a list of questions and the determination that I was going to get some answers. In a battle of our wills I always won.

         While he drove, I asked about his earliest memories of home and family. Answers were brief at first.

         “What was your mother like,” I asked.

“Short,” he replied, with a teasing smirk.

         My irritated huffs and sighs were audible on the tape’s playback even over the road noise and the hisses and static produced by the cheap recorder. After some nudging he elaborated on his responses.

         As we reached the town, these important places from my grandfather’s past pricked his memory and piqued my interest. Without my prompting he began describing events that happened in each place. Their importance was evident by the fact that he remembered after so many years.

         Each time I’d insist on getting out of the car to take a picture of whatever it was that inspired the thought. He would protest, reminding me that we were on a tight schedule -- we had to get home in time to watch the Braves game -- but he usually stopped.

         That day we visited several counties, stopping at courthouses and homes of unofficial local historians and driving by schools and houses. We ventured down so many unpaved roads in search of a secluded family cemetery that by the time we headed east at the end of the day the car was covered by a fine dusting of dirt.

         When my grandfather died a few years ago, the tapes became even more meaningful. I have a collection of my grandfather’s memories, captured in his voice on a CD, preserved in the pictures that prompted his recall and alive in my own vivid memories.

Tips:

  • Don’t edit out the small talk during these conversations.  It’s the best part.
  • Label and date pictures and tapes.

  Me: So this is where you were living when my mother was born?
Him: I think so. I don't know, Heather. That was a long time ago. (Sorry Mom!)
My mother's birth home?


© Heather M. Edwards