In Canada Victoria Day is celebrated on the 23 May this year. It is a long weekend and the unofficial start to summer. It is the time of year when vacations are planned and visits to family can be part of those plans.
This summer holiday season why not take the time to visit a local historical society and do some research on the history of the area where your ancestors lived. Researching the local history of the region can add substance to your family story.
If you are unable to visit these places then see if you can find them online and if not then find an address to write them a letter.
The one thing to remember about historical societies is that they are not usually open on the weekend or holidays. Some may be open only a couple days a week. The Oakville Historical Society is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 – 4:30 pm.
If the historical society is not open then go and visit the local library. Their hours are a little bit more regular but some libraries shorten their hours during the summer months.
The first week of May make a list of the places where your ancestors have lived or came from originally. See if there are any places that are close together and can be visited during a few days break at some point in the summer.
You may not be able to take a full two weeks holiday at once but can manage a few days off at a time. Why not avoid the traffic on the weekend and go mid week instead. You can sometimes get some great deals on accommodations during mid week.
Now that you have the list let’s find out what historical societies and libraries are in the areas of interest to you. The second week will be spent on Google and possibly on the phone finding out what is available in the towns where your ancestors lived.
Maybe your ancestors did not live near a town. Then look for a historical society that might cover a township. In the Oakville area we also have the Trafalgar Township Historical Society which covers the whole area not just a specific town.
If neither of those options exists then you might find a county museum or archives. In Halton we have the Halton Region Museum where you can go and do some research.
If you can not locate something in your specific area then go further afield. A town may be found in one region but you might find more information in the neighbouring region. This is especially true if the area borders another town, township or county.
The third week of May is time to organize. Make a list of the hours and contact information for each historical society, library and museum that you want to visit.
Do they have online catalogues? If so then search them before you leave so you have a better idea of what is available. If they do not have online catalogues then give them a call to see if they can help you. If they can not help you it is better to know before you go. They may also be able to point you in another direction to find more information.
If the area is small they might put you in touch with a local historian or a person in their organization who is very familiar with the area. If so then you can arrange an appointment to meet with them when you are there.
When you visit the historical societies, libraries and museums it is always welcomed if you leave a donation after your visit. These organizations usually survive by donations and membership fees. Libraries are working under ever dwindling budgets so do not forget them. Most of the information you will receive is free so a donation to show your appreciation is a good thing.
The fourth week of May it is time to plan your summer sojourns. Get maps printed for the areas you want to visit. Go online and find accommodations and restaurants in the area. See if there are other activities, exhibitions, or attractions that you can visit while you are there.
The important thing is to remember to have fun. It is your vacation after all.
©2011 – Blair Archival Research