Jean: Christine,this is the second time you have been a sponsor of the Gena and Jean Genealogy Journey Cruises and we are so pleased that you have returned. We know that a lot of your brochures were grabbed by genealogists whose roots lie in Scotland, but I doubt they all signed up for a tour. Do you take clients (i.e., respond to people who have questions about Scottish ancestry, but are not in a position to travel with you to that homeland)?
Christine: I don't take genealogy clients.That is, I don't do genealogy research for others. However, I am happy to make suggestions about where people might look next for their research or, if they are in need of a genealogist, I am happy to connect them to a colleague on the ground in Scotland.
Jean: DNA is, of course, a major tool for genealogists now. There is a lot to be learned from that, but some people put more stock in DNA results than perhaps is accurate. If a person’s DNA does not indicate Scottish roots, should he/she rule out that possibility?
Christine: I'm not a DNA expert by any stretch. But if there is Irish and not Scottish, I wouldn't rule out Scottish ancestry as there was a lot of migration back and forth across the 13 miles of sea separating the islands.
Jean: The Scots are famous for their mythology and storytelling. In your last post you mentioned your Scottish roots and family members who told stories over and over. Can you share a brief one of those with our readers (maybe to spur them on to dig for some from their families)?
Christine: Oh! There are so many. Most of them were about family members or people living in the village. My grandfather was a farmer. He used to say that no self respecting hen would lay white eggs. All of his hens laid white eggs, so my granny used to boil his eggs in tea so he thought he was getting brown eggs.
Jean: I love your advice to people about planning ahead for a trip to Scotland, and you gave some excellent reminders about “doing their homework” in last year’s blog. I presume that you go at certain times in the year and, while doing the preliminary research work is important, so is the research on what to take. There are so many restrictions on size and weight of bags these days – we all need to pack carefully. You must have some travel tips on what to bring (or NOT bring) for the different times of the year. Can you share a few pointers?
Christine: Scotland is on an island, so the weather is fairly changeable, even on any given day. We travel in May and September. Right before and right after high tourist season. The weather is much the same as for the Maritimes. So, a lightweight, windproof, waterproof jacket helps a great deal. We are fairly casual in the archives and there is only one night when "dressing up" is necessary - even then, business casual works well. There is a lot of walking and the cobblestone streets make for uneven ground. A good pair of walking shoes will make this easier. We walk to the local repositories (the National Library for example is only three blocks away) but for anyone with mobility issues, I make sure they get to wherever we are going by taxi. Safety first and foremost.
Jean: I have my genealogy comfortably stored on my computer (and backed up in many places), but I am concerned about plugging it in overseas. I understand I need certain adapters . . . I guess what I’m asking is, what do I need to do and take, as far as technology is concerned, to make my journey and research successful?
Christine: I give my participants a check list, as well as several email reminders about this very issue. For research in Scotland, it is imperative to have your family tree on your hard drive. By comparison to North America, WiFi is almost non-existent in Scotland. It is available in the hotels, but not in the archives. So if you only have your tree "in the cloud" you won't be able to access it when researching.
I also remind my participants, regularly, to pack power cords. There are adapters that work well for converting voltage. If you forget adapters, usb drives, or SD cards, you can buy new ones in Scotland. However, their power cords are for 220 voltage and our computers are designed to take 110 voltage. So, you risk frying your computer if you leave your power cord behind.
Jean: I know that any of our readers who plan to join you on a tour will have a full list of questions. How do they reach you to ask these and do you provide some sort of checklist or suggestions? In other words, you must be overwhelmed with questions just before you leave on a tour; how do you keep yourself from becoming over-stressed?
Christine: After 26 years in child welfare, it takes a bit for me to feel stressed or overwhelmed. Especially about something I am so passionate about. I am always open to questions. I really want the participants to be comfortable in their decisions and to be prepared for what they are going to face once they get to Scotland. I do have a checklist. I also tell people in every single email not to hesitate to ask questions. I remind them that because I am back and forth so often, I may take things for granted, so it's important that they ask instead of worry or wonder. I send out emails about once a month for the time leading up to the tour, then weekly for the last month or so. I give details like what to say to the cab driver so they get to the right Marriott hotel, how much trains or taxis will cost them, who to tip and who not to worry about tipping.
Jean: Thanks, again, for being part of this project. Safe travels on your next tour and best wishes in your roots pursuits.
Christine: Just as an FYI I do a full pre-tour preparation with each participant. Usually about a year. There are webinars and a series of documents to assist them in knowing what to expect, what needs to get done ahead of time and to make them feel prepared for their time in Scotland. Our next tour is April 15-22, 2018. Book now!
-Jean Wilcox Hibben