The Heritage Tourist
a monthly column by Dr. Bill Smith
Many of us are already Heritage Tourists, but may not know it. Genealogy tourism or travel is a good start. If you go to a genealogy conference or visit an out-of-town records repository, this is genealogy travel. If it is more than 50 miles from home, you become a genealogy tourist. If you add historic, cultural, or natural sites to your itinerary, you are a heritage tourist. These are the definitions I will use in this column. Your thoughts are always welcome. Join us in the IDG Forums for further discussions.
One of my first experiences as a heritage tourist was when my wife and I visited Bryantown, Charles County, Maryland nearly eleven years ago, the homeland of my fifth great-grandfather, Rev War Sgt Major William KINNICK of the Maryland Line. [I just watched Rob Lowe on WDYTYA, talking about his Rev War era 5th great-grandfather - did you see it?] I didn’t learn a whole lot of new information on KINNICK, but I got to walk the ground where he walked; I saw the Zekiah Swamp near the land where his family lived. We also visited the site of the church land donated by his grandfather, Captain Richard BRIGHTWELL, in the late 1600s.
While we were in Bryantown, we also saw the house of the doctor who treated John Wilkes BOOTH, for his broken leg, after he had assassinated Abraham LINCOLN, jumped onto the stage (breaking the leg) and escaping out of Washington, DC. into Maryland. While this is a different era than we went to explore, it certainly added to our overall appreciation of the social context of the area in our national history. I think of social context as fairly synonymous with my view of heritage. Do you agree or disagree?
Therefore, we not only visited where an ancestor lived, we immersed ourselves in the history and culture of the time and place; we experienced the natural environment of the physical space. It is a set of experiences I will never forget. Have you taken a similar tour? What heritage trip would you take, if you had the option?
Most of my columns here will share suggestions of heritage environments you may want to consider when you travel either for genealogy research on your family or on family vacation trips. We each have our own sets of priorities, of course. I want to make suggestions to help your planning efforts. Your feedback will be helpful in doing that.
One set of heritage experiences that I will definitely include in this column will be National Heritage Areas (NHAs). There are currently 49 NHAs across the country that, in my view, are the current incarnations of new National Parks. You will recognize the individual historical sites within many of the NHAs but you may not realize there is a larger “nationally significant story” in each NHA that incorporates these local, state and national sites. To get a head start in understand the NHA movement, you can view this lens [my viewpoint] I recently prepared.
As many of you know from my Facebook page and Twitter account, I also write regular short articles for Examiner.com in three topic areas: Heritage Tourism, Genealogy, and Ozarks Cultural Heritage. I invite you to subscribe to each of these series’ to see more of my view of this wonderful world we inhabit. My ‘home’ geneablog, of course, is Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories. Stop by regularly, and leave a note.
See you down the road…
Dr. Bill Smith is the author of The Heritage Tourist, a monthly column in The In-Depth Genealogist which focuses on the social context of travel and history when applied to our genealogy. Dr. Bill can be found blogging at Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories.
© Dr. Bill Smith 2012
This article originally appeared in the May issue of The In-Depth Genealogist. Receive The In-Depth Genealogist free by subscribing HERE.