During the month of June, we took our family on a cross-country road trip. 1 RV. 9 people. 17 days. We included many family history activities along the way. To catch up on our trip so far:
Several generations of my father’s side of the family resided in Oklahoma City. During our road trip stop in Oklahoma City, I wanted to explore the places where my ancestors lived. Before our trip, I made a Google map marking all the family locations known to me through letters and documents. I included residences, work places, schools, churches, cemeteries. I colored coded the map to indicate which branch of the family that location pertained to.
To make it an interesting family activity, I included photos and stories. I selected photos that could be identified as taken at a particular place (usually the house number appeared in the photo, or there was an identifiable landmark in the background). I brainstormed the stories and facts I knew about these individuals and locations that I could share with my family on our drive. After I printed copies of the photos, I wrote the address and number order for our scavenger hunt on the back, as well as a sentence or phrase reminding me of the facts and stories I wanted to share.
On the day of our family history drive, we started at the Sunnylane Cemetery, where many family members are buried. After stopping at the office for a map and directions, we drove to the correct section. We paid our respects at my grandparents’ gravesite, and at several extended family members gravesites. Next we were off on our drive through history on my pre-planned route. We drove passed my grandma Billee’s childhood home, the elementary school where she and her sister attended (which was a landmark in many photos), the location of my great-great-grandfather’s gas station and grocery store, the high school where my grandparents met, the house my great-grandmother and her second husband bought, the place my grandparents stood for photos on their wedding day, the church down the road that the whole family attended. As we drove passed each place, I shared stories and facts with the children and we had a great discussion together about the tight-knit, family-filled community where our ancestors lived. We stopped where we could and took some photos. Other times, my husband would just slow down in the RV so I could take a quick snapshot out the window. The activity was not perfect: we couldn’t stop as many places as I had hoped due to our large vehicle on narrow streets with lots of cars parked on the curbs (kudos to my husband who was the patient driver navigating us through the city); children got tired and irritable before we hit all the locations I had prepared for. But, I didn’t want to push the children passed their limit; I wanted them to enjoy the places we did see and the stories they did hear. I decided to be content and even very happy with what we were able to do!
In fact, I was ecstatic with our drive through history. I felt so much closer to my ancestors who lived in this small area of Oklahoma City. I felt closer to my children as I shared these stories with them. The stories seemed so much more tangible and real when we heard them in the places they happened. The children enjoyed holding up the pictures and comparing them with the location as it stands (or not) today. Overall, it was a huge, fun, memorable success!