How would you react if a complete stranger called you on the phone with a request for your DNA? The man said that he suspected me of being the missing link that would establish Virginia’s Eastern Shore peninsula as ground zero for the American Joynes/Joines clan now numbering in the thousands in five Mid-Atlantic States.
Well, yes, I admitted, I was aware that my ancestors had lived on the Eastern Shore since 1638 and that my grandfather and his brothers had been watermen, farmers, and members of the U.S. Life Saving Service on Hog Island, but I knew very little about my family history. That small bit of information, however, was enough to request my DNA. The Joynes/Joines genealogical study group would even pay for the test.
Eldon Joines found me through my author’s website; and since he also resided in North Carolina, no more than an hour’s drive from my home, he offered to visit and talk about our common genealogy. I specified meeting for lunch at a very public place. (I was the model of modern-day caution.) By the end of our meal and conversation, however, I began to look upon Eldon as a cousin. Rapport established, Eldon produced a DNA test kit, and I leaned over the restaurant table to have my inner cheek swabbed. What must observers have thought we were doing?
When the lab results were published, the link to the Eastern Shore was established, and Eldon was able to trace us to a common grandfather some four generations past. We were indeed cousins.
Eldon has been working on a Joynes/Joines family history for more than twenty years. He is not an academic but is an upholstery craftsman with his own small business. Thus, he must pay his own way on research trips and take time to share information with other members of the study group. Devotion to comprising a family genealogy is thus a labor of love.
When I learned that Eldon was planning a fourth research trip to the Eastern Shore, I asked to accompany him as a fellow traveler. Then it occurred to me to re-invigorate my travel-writer credentials to explore the adventure of genealogy tourism. My travel-writing career includes Holiday Magazine and five titles in the Insiders’ Guide series. Family genealogists unravel mysteries and make new discoveries on every trip, and I wanted to be part of it.
My angle in following Eldon on the Eastern Shore is to describe the transformative power of a genealogy research trip that provides significant meaning and purpose to travel. To make my reporting useful, I also intend to include practical guidelines for planning a family history vacation.
To make the best use of time spent in the historic environs, careful planning is essential. Mapping and making interview contacts occurs weeks, and even months, prior to the actual travel dates. But the pre-trip activity is part of the excitement.
I must admit that in all my book research and vacation travels to awe-inspiring places, the anticipation of going back to my ancestral home on the Eastern Shore of Virginia registers high on the excitement meter. Maybe it’s the potential for adventure and surprise that inspires me.