I am a lazy family historian. I sit at my computer, rummaging through websites, searching for ancestral records and cursing the wind when none are found. I beam with pride at my plump family tree, limbs sprouting with ancestral names, leaves waving with lush, rich stories.

But sadly, I yield when the information ends.

I fantasize the dream of boating across the pond to amble the cobbled streets of my ancestor's homelands in Ireland, Scotland and France. Stumbling upon distant cousins living within picturesque European town lands. And then I pause to consider how much is left--blank names, blank town lands, blank files.

But this week everything will change. I have challenged myself to relinquish my office chair and release myself from the chains of my computer to jump the pond for a head-on, get down-and-dirty dive into a little foreign country:


Yes, my on-the-road genealogical trip is only a few hours from my home and though I cheat, using it as a little break through the beautiful rolling Ozarks, it is a research trip nonetheless. Sadly, I faced the reality of my lazy expectations of armchair genealogy and accepted what many steadfast family historians realized long ago: the deepest holes have to be dug on-site, not on-line.

It is romantic to dream of researching ancestors within their European homelands
but the deep wells at home have to be dry before journeying a thousand miles away. And I am embarrassed to say I have failed to study the well that is only 200 miles within my grasp. Though Arkansas is a tad bit different than France, I expect to find early 1800 records laced with French surnames such as Lemoux and Jacques; my French American ancestor living within an Arkansas Territory village flooded with French, Cajun and Canadian immigrants.

And so, though my first ancestral road trip lacks the glitter and glory of a romantic European expedition, I load my SUV of ancestral files longing to be complete and head into another vast land: Oklahoma's sister state to the east, Arkansas.

I guess I'll have to tote my French wine and croissants across state line!


Do you have French ancestry? Our journey can be a struggle but if your French American ancestor fought in the Civil War, his records could be rich with resources. French Americans were an important Catholic group during the Civil War--most of them serving within the Union forces. Look for their Civil War pensions and you could stumble upon a vast realm of information.

Keep searching for answers,




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