If you could go anywhere, do anything, research at any repository in the world... where would you go? What would you see?
The idea of a bucket list is not so strange in the world of genealogy; we all have places we "wish" we could research. The second part of this question, however, is if you ever actually got the chance - would you be ready?
Here are some of the most common suggestions for the genealogists' bucket list.
- Visit my ancestral country for research. This might be the earliest known location in your family, or perhaps it is a place in which your family spent several generations. For many of us, experiencing the culture and environment that our ancestors faced is a once in a lifetime journey.
- Go to the grave of my earliest ancestor. There is nothing quite like finding that headstone, the one you have been looking for, the one that has evaded you for years. Making that physical connection can be a very poignant moment for many of us.
- See the homestead. For many in the United States, there is at least one homesteader in the family, and to stand on that land fulfills our desire to see it how they did, to understand better what that experience may have been like.
- Research at any one of the major repositories. Your list might include the FamilyHistory Library in Salt Lake City, the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington DC or the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society in New York City. Wherever you want to research across the U.S., that place should be on your bucket list!
- Explore a significant battlefield. If you had a military ancestor, perhaps they were involved in a battle that is considered a turning point in the conflict, or is a place where they were injured or taken as a prisoner of war. What would it be like to walk those solemn grounds?
- Live out their diary. Some are lucky enough to have a diary of their ancestor's life, taking us day to day through their experiences. Would you want to relive those experiences, and walk in their footsteps? Literally reenacting their day to day challenges?
- Speak the language. One of those long term objectives may to become fluent in your families native language. Of course this is helpful for records that are written in another language, but it also gives "life" to your family, and provides a common bond.
- Ultimate genealogy road trip. Maybe your biggest wish is to simply drive around the country and hit every spot on your family map! Could take months, but would more likely take years depending on the size of your family and how much they moved around, but what a drive it would be!
- Digitize your ancestral town's historical archives. If you had all the money you could ask for, would you put some if it towards digitizing materials that would help in your - and many other's - research? Would you help preserve those records?
- Genealogical education. Would you take advantage of the many conferences, institutes, online learning programs, and other educational opportunities? Or perhaps you would pursue a degree in family history, genealogy, or another related topic. Whatever the best fit for you is, make sure it goes on your bucket list.
No matter what is on your bucket list, will you be ready?
Our Director of Family History, D. Joshua Taylor, has a fantastic idea to capture these goals. As you research, and you find that there is a particular resource or collection at one of your bucket list repositories, create a note for yourself. You can do this in a system like Evernote, OneNote, or Trello, or by using Word, Excel, or even 3x5 note cards.
The idea is to maintain a running list of items that you would look up at that center if you ever had the chance to visit. When the day does finally come, you have a research list ready to go, and can focus on other areas of prep before you travel. This process could certainly be applied to your educational goals, societies to join or investigate, and locations to see.
There are so many other items that might go onto a genealogists' bucket list, and we'd love to hear your suggestions. What would you put on your list?