There comes a time in every genealogy researcher's life when they decide a trip to their ancestral homeland is the only thing that will make their research feel complete. Not that we can ever have all of the information. That part will never be complete. But in the depth of understanding of our ancestors, their journey and their legacy, we get to a point when we need to go back to where they lived. We yearn to walk in their footsteps so that we can try to fully gain an understanding of who they were.
One of the realities for the descendants of the Scots Diaspora who return to Scotland to research their roots is that they are neither visiting nor touring. They are returning HOME. So many of Scots heritage will tell you that the moment they set foot on Scottish soil, they had a sense of "coming home."
Walking in the footsteps of your ancestors is awe-inspiring, humbling and deeply fulfilling. But traveling to the home of your ancestors takes planning. It is not enough to show up in the village, head to the local pub and start asking questions. You need to do some research ahead of time. Do some research before you go. Learn about what repositories are available, what archival materials they hold, who can access the documents and what identification is required to research in each repository.
Decide which repositories you want/need to visit. Visit their websites. Learn what hours and days they are open then plan accordingly. Are they in the same city? If not, how many can you realistically visit in the time you have?
There is so much more to understanding the lives of your ancestors than simply knowing the dates of the vital events in their lives. Take time to really understand the times in which they lived. How they lived. What they did for entertainment, where they worked, what the laws and social norms were. You can do this by:
- Visiting Museums
- Visiting Historic Sites
- Talking to Locals
- Take City Tours
While in your ancestral homeland, indulge yourself in your own Scottish heritage. Take pride in it. Drink it in. Absorb it. Visit pubs, attend festivals, take part in Highland Games, Clan Gatherings, celebrations or re-enactments. Let your Scottish pride show.
Planning ahead will help you to make the best use of your time in your ancestral homeland. And ultimately that will make your quest to discover your ancestors and your own Scottish heritage more fulfilling.