Ancestry on the road: Parents teach kids history one state at a timePublished 5:58pm Saturday, March 2, 2013
An RV driving through town would not be particularly noticeable or remarkable. But when a vehicle that is essentially a moving billboard for the premier genealogical website cruises by, it rather captures one’s attention.
Thursday, the colorful RV sponsored by Ancestry.com rolled into Washington, one of its many stops on what will be a 14,000-mile, 45-state trip. Provo, Utah, natives Rob Brown and his family are on a journey of a lifetime.
“What we really wanted to do is teach our children U.S. history through our family history,” Brown said.
Brown and his wife Kathy homeschool their five children and in between selling a home and waiting for spring to build a new one, decided to buy an RV and hit the roads to track down ancestors and educational opportunities for their kids. When Brown approached Ancestry.com about a potential sponsorship, the company hopped on board and the family RV became a mobile advertisement. The result has been plenty of people approaching the Browns at rest stops and campgrounds to tell them about their discoveries through ancestry.com.
“We’re big and we’re bright, so most people see us coming,” Brown said. “People knock on our door to share their story. … We’ve discovered some really good stories.”
Including some of their own: a poem written in Welsh by one of Brown’s ancestors who came through the Port of New Orleans from Wales centuries ago, along with the discovery of Wilkesboro, N.C., ancestors — “corn farmers” who migrated to Jackson Hole, Wyo., to start a saloon and smuggle liquor back and forth from North Carolina to the West. What brought the Browns to Washington was an attempt to find information about one of Kathy Brown’s ancestors, Jesse Jolley, who lived in Beaufort and Pitt counties in the mid-18th century.
Brown said he and his wife had never done anything remotely like this trip before they set out in the RV with Audrey (10), Sophie (7), Harvey (5), George (3) and Sam (2). For Audrey, the trip’s highlight so far has been a stop at Disneyworld. For Harvey, it was loading the RV and towed trailer on the ferry for a ride across Galveston Bay in Texas.
The Browns head north from North Carolina, to New Jersey and Connecticut, where most of Rob Brown’s family originates. According to Brown, they’ve got a lot more road to cover over the next few months — in a motor home that weighs 20 tons and gets six miles per gallon.
“We pray every day for low gas prices,” Brown laughed.