8 Tips for Planning a Family History Memorial Day Road Trip
Memorial Day is coming up. Although the purpose of Memorial Day is honoring those who have died in the service of our country, many Americans visit memorials and cemeteries on Memorial Day for other ancestors too. Last year I received this email from FamilySearch.org before Memorial Day:
After receiving this email, we were inspired to find out if any of our ancestors were buried nearby. We found that my husband had ancestors buried in both Safford and Taylor, Arizona. We wanted to know more about his great grandfather, Thomas Hancock, who died in Taylor, we decided to go there for the weekend. Thomas Hancock and his mother Margaret Ann McCleve Hancock are both buried in the Taylor Cemetery. Using the Billion Graves App on our smart phones, we knew we would be able to use the GPS tags to find exactly where they were buried within the cemetery.
Here are some tips that I learned from our road trip:
1. Locate ancestors’ burial site before you arrive at the cemetery
If you’re planning to use the Billion Graves app for your visit to the cemetery, you will want to look at their map to see where your ancestor is buried before you go. When we arrived at the cemetery, we tried to use the Billion Graves app but our phones didn’t have reception there. So, the app was useless. You can at least pull up the map of the grave’s location and have it cached in your phones before you go!
The Taylor Cemetery wasn’t very large so we actually enjoyed walking around looking for the memorials for Thomas and Margaret.
2. Check the “Visit our Town” Website
Look for a “Visit our Town” website before you go. I googled “visit Taylor, Arizona” and found a website that revealed several historic sites in Taylor, including the actual cabin that one of our ancestors lived in! Well, that got us pretty excited. We didn’t know it existed.
We called ahead of time to schedule a tour of the interior of the cabin. We met the docent at the Taylor Museum and looked around there first. There were many interesting displays for the kids to look at, including a covered wagon, some period clothing, and animals.
3. Call ahead and find out what records they have
The Taylor Museum had many historical and genealogical records in the back of their museum. If I had known about that, I could have prepared research questions to look into. Since my kids were there and we had scheduled a home tour, we didn’t have time to look through the records.
4. Bring a mobile scanner
If there’s any chance you might be meeting family members with photos or documents, bring something to scan them with! We only had our point and shoot camera and smart phone cameras.
Inside the Margaret Ann McCleve Hancock cabin were several photos I wanted to scan. I wish we would have asked permission to remove this photo from the glass in order to get a better shot. It’s the only copy we’ve ever seen of the 64th Birthday Reunion of Margaret McCleve Hancock:
Some people like the Shot Box which you can use with your smart phone camera, and there’s also the Flip Pal Mobile Scanner. (These are affiliate links. If you click the link and make a purchase, we receive a small commission but it doesn’t change the price of the item. Thanks!)
5. Read about your ancestor before you go
The cabin had many heirlooms and items that told about Margaret’s life. We read stories about her that others had added to FamilySearch.org before we went and learned that she was a midwife in Taylor for many years. We also learned that she and her 13 children lived in this cabin without their father most of the time. He was often travelling and helping settle new parts of Arizona. Knowing more about their lives made seeing the cabin much more meaningful.
One of the heirlooms at the cabin was a trunk made by Margaret’s husband Mosiah, in which she stored her midwife supplies.
We learned that she was known as a nurse to all in the area and that she was actually “set apart” by a church leader for this purpose:
“Aunt Margaret, as she came to be known, was the mother of the entire community, acting as nurse, almost without exception, for 25 years.
“She was called and set apart for this mission by President Jesse N. Smith, which calling she performed faithfully, going day and night, no matter what the hour, to administer to the needs of the sick, suffering or those in sorrow of distress, as those who knew her can testify.
“She was very successful in her work as obstetric nurse to the hundreds of mothers she waited on.
“Margaret and her daughter, Amy, owned a little store in Taylor for years that helped in the support of her family.
“Though her trials were many, she was always firm in her faith and found joy in bringing comfort to others; she gave up nursing at the age of seventy years.
“She had a very kind and sympathetic nature, charitable to those in need or in trouble. She was loved and trusted by all who knew her. It an truly be said of her that the world is better by her having lived in it.”
6. Visit other historic sites
There were several other historic homes to visit in Taylor, so we visited another one of them, the Standifird Home.
It gave us greater insight into the town at the time our ancestors lived there and helped us understand what the people there were like.
We enjoyed seeing the artifacts and learning the stories of the people of Taylor, Arizona.
7. Check the town calendar of events
We checked the “Visit Taylor, Arizona” calendar of events and found out that there was a Hayride Jamboree on Memorial Day. “The Taylor-Shumway Heritage Foundation hosts a Hayride Jamboree that includes a hayride tour of the historic sites, a chili bean and cornbread dinner and entertainment. The fun begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Hancock Log Cabin located on Willow and Center Streets in Taylor, Arizona.”
Many cities hold memorial day parades, celebrations, arts and crafts fairs, pancake breakfasts, and all kinds of community events on Memorial Day weekend.
8. Look for other interesting places to visit in the area
We noticed that there was an LDS temple in the neighboring city of Snowflake, Arizona. We decided to stop there on our way home and check it out. It was a great weekend and we were happy to learn more about our ancestors for Memorial Day Weekend!
This year for Memorial Day, I’m looking forward to participating in Heather Rojo’s Honor Roll Project to take photos, transcribe, and publish the names on a local war memorial. What a wonderful way to celebrate the men and women who died while serving in the armed services. What are you doing for Memorial Day?