Take a Virtual Tour for Family History Month: October Genealogy Blog Party

October is Family History Month and is this month’s theme for Elizabeth O’Neal’s October Genealogy Blog Party.

Here’s my question for you – How are you enriching your own knowledge about your ancestors’ lives?

I’m not talking about adding names to the family tree or even filling in those missing dates.

I’m thinking more along the lines of social history and historical events. I’m also not really thinking strictly of scheduled webinars, but more along the lines of videos available on Facebook, YouTube and even on smaller specific sites like local museums and historical societies.

Just because fun travel opportunities are quite limited while we are in the midst of this pandemic, it doesn’t mean that we can’t take a few trips here and there – virtual trips, that is.

As researchers, we sometimes get so involved in the hunt for paper documents (the whos and the whats) that we forget the importance of understanding the wheres and the whys of daily life.

Have you taken the time to search out historical and genealogical virtual tours and/or lectures? There are now zillions of them available online and many are free.

I have to warn you, though, that because of each person’s unique experiences and heritage, that it will take some digging to find virtual tours  and videos that tie into your own ancestors’ lives.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Google Maps – I’d love to visit Slovakia some day. Whether or not I’ll ever get there remains to be seen. However, I have virtually visited my grandparents’ villages through the street view on Google maps. Hajtovka, both in the 1800s and now, looks like a beautiful area with its rolling hills and valleys, but conditions of many of the homes in this one lane village represent a hard life.

2. Do you have ancestors who took part in any American wars? Check out American Battlefield Trust. This site has hundreds of videos and virtual visits covering a wide range of topics (American Revolution, War of 1812 & Civil War) – everything from the Boston Massacre to Civil War rations to virtually experiencing a battle.

3. The DAR Museum offers several free virtual tours, educating viewers on life in early America. There are live tours for which you can register and a few pre-recorded videos. Current offerings include Women at Home in Early America and Privacy in the Early American Home.

4. Was your family in New York at the turn of the 20th century? Take a virtual tour through New York City in 1911 through old films.

5. Visit the Oklahoma Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

6. The National Park Service has videos pertaining to individual park sites in the NPS system available online. Here’s one about the Oregon Trail and the first encounters with the Lakota Native Americans.

7. C-SPAN offers a video tour about American Westward Expansion.

8. Did anyone in your family head north to the Klondike gold rush? Thomas Edison’s video can be viewed on YouTube.

9. Whitney Plantation Slavery Museum hosts virtual tour talks about Louisiana enslaved persons and their lives, including being sold, incarcerated and daily activities.

10. The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia offers short virtual tours of life in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. You can visit  a 1700s colonial farm house, a 1600s English yeoman farmer, a 1700s American frontier settlement and more.

11. The 75th anniversary of D-Day electronic field trip, by the World War II Museum, shares both movie footage and modern day commentary of the Normandy invasion.

12. Experience a 1627 Puritan church service. The tour is only half an hour – in reality, the Puritans spent hours in church on the Sabbath. A sermon alone could be three hours long!

13. How was linen woven in the 1700s? Watch a master weaver at Mount Vernon demonstrate the process.

14. Here is a short documentary about the  Irish Famine and Beyond, covering Irish life from the 1847 famine and life in the later 1800s.

15. My husband has quite a few ancestors who settled in Appalachia in the early 1800s. Some of their culture and folkways are a continuation of those brought to the colonies by the Scots-Irish, their ancestors. Here’s a video on 20th century life: 1970, The Mountain People, Southern Appalachia

16. Do you have Amish ancestors in your family tree? Check out: Amish Country.

17. Take some time to find websites and Facebook pages for churches which your family attended. With the pandemic, many have added videos of services or church tours to accommodate those who can’t be there in person. It’s been decades since I visited the Cathedral of St. Michael The Archangel,  in Passaic, New Jersey. St. Michael’s is the church my nana loved and attended for all the years that she lived in New Jersey. The church Facebook page includes this short video tour and shows the inside to be as beautiful as ever.

18. Did your family live somewhere at the time a local historical or newsworthy event took place? I recently read the Tickle and Tickell Surname Study and DNA Project blog and learned about the Ratcliffe Highway murders in 1811. The blogger has ancestors who lived in that neighborhood at the time the families were killed and a modern documentary maker has created a 3-part series about what happened and posted it on YouTube. I was drawn into the story and watched the documentary, which was excellent. You never know who will create and post a visual presentation that ties into your own family history.

19. While looking for videos about locales on YouTube, I came across a short clip of a virtual tour of the gardens around the house of John Whipple, which was built in 1677 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Captain John Whipple is one of my many Ipswich colonial ancestors and I enjoyed seeing his beautiful property. This clip was only posted on 27 September 2020 – clear proof that what isn’t online yesterday just might be today.

20. Don’t overlook educational videos and virtual tours created for students. Here is a great virtual tour of Ellis Island and what life was like coming to America, hosted by Scholastic.

I hope I’ve inspired you to do some creative searching and deeper digging to find some neat virtual tours that you can enjoy in the safety and comfort of your own home.



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