I read about others’ ancestors who stayed put and am envious.
Imagine researching the life of someone who never strayed further than a few miles from the place they were born. In this place our fictional ancestor completed their schooling and went on to obtain a trade or tertiary qualification. Perhaps they joined a guild or professional association. They married and had children. The local telephone directory listed their name and address. Every time the Census came around, they completed a return. All these events were recorded and, ideally, whatever information was not available online could be obtained from one or more places in close proximity to each other.
I was out of luck.
By the time Harris was born, a predisposition to travel had already been hard-wired into his DNA. He moved several times between cities and towns, and once between countries, leaving an uneven trail behind him.
I had exhausted the capabilities of the local library, genealogical society and the Internet. Two options presented themselves: follow in his footsteps and connect with the places where he lived or the journeys he made, or try to find those who could source the relevant information for me.
Even if I wanted to get myself to England on a regular basis, I would have to face a flight of almost 24 hours that crosses 10 time zones, and covers a distance of some 17,000 kilometres or 10,500 miles. The flight to South Africa is only marginally less confronting. Some people cope easily with the demands of intercontinental travel. I am not one of them.
My primary reasons for travel are about recreation or reconnecting with friends and family. There have been times when I have used the opportunity of being in a place to try to add to my knowledge of particular interests, including family history, and I leave the door open to this in future. My past efforts have had mixed outcomes and I am cautious about pursuing leads which – if misdirected – not only leave one with an empty feeling, but bite into precious holiday time. There are also certain things that I cannot, or don’t have the time to do now.
Option two came up smelling of roses. I would put most of my eggs into this basket. But I had to start somewhere.
Seeking help invariably involves ‘cold calling’ or ‘cold emailing’. And like all new pathways, the road can take unexpected turns.