My Cross-Country Genealogy Trip

I just finished a cross-country trip of two weeks–from Utah to Cleveland OH and Southwest PA and back.  Took I-80 and US 30  out and I-70 and US 50 back to Kearney Nebraska.

Now I can see the questions forming in your mind?  Why did Arlene Eakle take such a trip?  And  Why tell us all about the trip?  Good questions–which I will answer for you:

  1. Why take a cross-country trip?  Actually, I went to Cleveland to attend an amazing marketing conference on Using Direct Mail as an advertising media.  Some of the keenest marketing minds in the world were present:  The man who started and Free Credit  A representative of Infusion Soft analytics.  The ROI Guy.  Mailing list managers.  Copywriters.  Graphic designers.  And the bursting room was packed with entrepreneurs, owners, and execs of businesses classified as “small businesses” although many were multi-million dollar companies.  And the direct-mail guru–Dan S. Kennedy.  See his article, “Marketing by Magnetic Attraction,” in Success Magazine  (June 2012):  24-29 and accompanying  audio CD “Life-Changing Success Insights from Today’s Leading Personal Achievement Experts” tucked into the binding.  I came away with more than 500 pages of handouts and a 200-page notebook filled with my own handwritten notes.
  2. Why tell you all about the trip?  I distributed more than 1,000 invitation flyers to the Mid-West Family History Expo, scheduled for Kearney Nebraska 7-8 September 2012 at the Holiday Inn Conference Center.  I drove EAST along US 30, the original cross-country highway through the Great Plains and in places called the Great Platte River Road. With stops at local public libraries and visitor centers, archives and research centers.  And I did genealogy client work in several of them.  Many local areas now have beautiful new public libraries.  And those that are still housed in small and cramped buildings have been fund-raising for planned new facilities.  As I came WEST along the Old National Road–parts of I-70 and US 50–I also stopped along the way to leave flyers.  One of the purposes of the Mid-West Expo is to introduce research collections and libraries unfamiliar to America’s genealogists.  Let me share some details with you about just one:   the Trails and Rails Museum sponsored by Buffalo County in Kearney.  Among the county historical and genealogy archives is a volume of original response letters mailed by the county clerk to former residents of the county who had been included in the Come Back Club.  These letters dated from the early 1900’s [that is over 100 years ago, folks!].  The letters expressed excitement about seeing everyone again from those planning to  come back and sincere regrets from those whose lives were too complicated to arrange a reunion trip. Buffalo County is building a new, expanded space, to house these archives.

And I purchased a copy of Merrill J. Mattes award-winning, The Great Platte River Road: The Covered Wagon Mainline via Fort Kearney to Fort Laramie (Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press,1969; Bison Book Printing,1987).  I’ve used this volume since it was first published, reading parts of it over and over again.  Never tiring of the new stuff gleaned from its pages with each reading.  Just always did it at the libraries I frequent–never owning my own copy.  Well, now I have a copy of my own purchased at the Fort Kearney Historical Park.

Did you know that most historical sites of any size have bookstores?  This is especially true for state and federal historical sites.  A stop at their bookstore is always a treat for me–I love books.  Printed books.  That I can hold.  And turn the pages.  And mark, where appropriate.  Books that can surround me with a sense of well-being.  That my desire to learn more and better sources might be richly fed.

Mattes lists numerous overland journals, diaries, letters, and other primary migration sources on pp. 523-65.  Then he continues his bibliography for other information sources he used to compile this history.  If your ancestors came west on the overland trails, this book is must reading.  And I highly recommend The Great Platte River Road to you for your summer reading list.  You can find copies at used book stores, at the libraries where you do your genealogy research, and you can still order copies through or your favorite local bookstore.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Holly Hansen met me in Kearney, where we also attended the monthly meeting of the Fort Kearney Genealogical Society.  Holly spoke to the group about the coming Expo.  And we had a great time meeting those friendly folks.

PPS  I also did research in Southwest PA–my sharing of what I found there will have to wait for another blog.  Stay Tuned!


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