A Family History Tour with Dad

Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega suggests a way to celebrate Father’s Day and explore family history at the same time. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

My dad supported my interest in family history research in a number of ways. He told me stories of ancestors he knew. He shared memories of his family, his military service, and his work. In addition to the stories, he took me on some family history trips. One of the outings we did was taking a tour of where he grew up in Southern California.

A family history tour is a great way to learn more about your dad (or any family member). It doesn’t have to be expensive or take multiple days. In this case I was lucky that we lived within an hour of where he spent his formative years, so we could drive and then spend the afternoon as he showed me his schools, the first house my grandparents bought in the area, and other genealogically important places.

Father’s Day is a great time to focus on dad and ask him about his life. If you’re a dad, take some time to consider taking your family on a tour. This tour can be in-person or virtually. It can even take place in your front room, combining a look at an old family photo album with the stories behind the photos.

Photo: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Catholic school the author’s dad went to in Indio, Riverside, California. Photo by Gena Philibert-Ortega.
Photo: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Catholic school the author’s dad went to in Indio, Riverside, California. Photo by Gena Philibert-Ortega.

If you can take a trip, what topics/places should you visit on a family history tour? Some ideas include:

  • Schools attended (make sure to talk about favorite teachers and classes, activities participated in, friends)
  • Homes lived in (talk about when, describe the inside of the house, favorite part of the house, events that you celebrated in that house, why the family moved, neighbors)
  • Restaurants
  • Stores frequented
  • Places family members worked
  • Churches
  • Parks, outdoor entertainment areas
  • Homes of family members and friends
  • Local cemeteries where family members are buried
  • Memories of specific family members

Don’t forget that a tour is more than just showing specific locations – it’s also about storytelling. The stories and facts behind the places, people, and events are just as important.

For example, the Salton Sea is one of the places where my dad’s family vacationed.

An article about the Salton Sea, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 23 October 1967
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 23 October 1967, page 28

After the Tour

If you’re lucky enough to go on a family history tour with your dad, or you are a dad providing a tour, don’t forget that you can augment that tour afterward by writing up your notes, attaching photos that you took, or looking up additional information in historical newspapers – such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Once you’ve written up a narrative and included images, ask more questions or add additional details. The benefit of getting family history information from the living is the ability to ask questions and later ask for clarification or more information.

Happy Father’s Day!

If your dad is still around, consider taking a tour in-person or virtually of his old haunts. Ask questions and take notes. If you are a dad, take this time to give your descendants a gift: your family history memories.

One thought on “A Family History Tour with Dad

  1. For my husband’s 80th birthday, I prepared a family history tour for him and our four sons. Each received a tour guide booklet so they could add their own notes. Fortunately his birth place still exists. A 18-year-old girl met him in the yard. She, too, declared that she had been born in that house. He proved that he had indeed walked 1 1/2 miles to country school from 5-10 years of age to a school house that later was converted to a home. We toured the university campus, attended a football game, ate at their favorite restaurant and visited our first house and other residences. He died four years later. It was wonderful that he could share his life experiences with his sons. Now I must prepare my history for the sons and grandchildren.

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