Monday, July 25, 2011

The Road

By freefotouk
I am home. My genealogy dream trip this summer lasted five and half weeks, covered 4,800 miles (lots of backtracking involved, but I could drive Interstate 81 for years and not mind), stays in 4 states and the District of Columbia, visits to the National Archives, the DAR Library, the Library of Virginia, the Mary Ball Washington Library, the Archives of Appalachia, two courthouses, eight cemeteries, family homes and even living, breathing family members. I had dinner three nights with fellow geneabloggers (completely wonderful!), ate my first Ethiopian meal with my fabulous niece, caught up with a college friend I'd not seen in years, and looked at microfilm until my eyes and brain were completely crossed. I have thousands of images to sort through and assess. But I do believe that's for another day. A la Scarlett O'Hara, I'll think about that tomorrow.

What I have been thinking about is how I was able to travel the distance of my ancestors lives in a matter of hours. My Scots-Irish family migrated south through the Shenandoah Valley from western Pennsylvania to Tennessee over several generations. One morning I woke in Lexington, VA and visited the Rockbridge County Courthouse. I saw the original marriage bond for my 4th great-grandparents, John Stephenson and Elizabeth Cloyd. That afternoon, after driving south on I-81, I visited their graves at the Salem Cemetery in Washington County, TN. I stayed in Jonesborough, where Elizabeth started a school for girls in 1820.

I remember traveling through Virginia before the interstate was built, before cars had air conditioners, when  a hotel swimming pool was rare. It took a full day longer. The roads were curvier (I consumed large quantities of dramamine on those trips), narrower, and far more difficult to drive. From today's perspective it was a difficult trip.

I try to imagine John and Elizabeth traveling down to Tennessee in 1808. They surely traveled the same route I did - the Great Warriors Trail. I wonder if there were ghosts on their road, as there have been on mine.


  1. It was such a great experience to meet you during this trip. And you have me dreaming of my own ideal research trip!

  2. I'm sure there were Ghosts. This trip sounds so great. It's making me want to plan one. I especially like the driving on the two lane highway.

  3. I will be paying a great deal of attention to everything you post once you get the chance to wade through your material. I'll travel along vicariously and perhaps learn some new research techniques.

  4. I have always wondered as I cruise down the interstate at 65+ mph if my ancestors would not have thought me completely mad for traveling 100+ miles to look for someone's grave. That distance would have taken them easily upwards of two weeks, and would have to have been a trip of *real* importance.

    Interesting how time changes so much more than just our surroundings...

    Glad you are safely home.

  5. I'm so jealous. An extended research trip is high on my wish list.

  6. First: SO jealous.
    Second: What part of western Pennsylvania y'all from? My great-grandfather married a Fayette/Greene County girl, May Laura, daughter of Ellis Bailey Stephenson. That's as far back as I can get for her. Seems her family dispersed. I am wondering if we are kin? ;)


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