Zany, Quirky or Weird?

AtoZ2019ZThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea?


The ground crew rush to the aircraft

“Take this box to Hagen”

“What’s in it?”

“Mosquitoes from the coast”

Aghast the tourist asks

“What happens if those things get loose in here?”



zzzzzz zzzzz I suck your blood! Image from Pixabay.

Zzzzzzzz the annoying whine of a mozzie round your ears

Hope you’ve taken your Camoquin.

Ours is stored in a maxi Pablo jar –

To avoid the risk of poisoning –

Rationed out each Sunday.


Tinka and Tabitha

The dachsund and the acrobatic cat

Enliven our early mornings


A PNG butterfly. Image from Wikipedia

Shredded tissues from one

Shredded butterflies the other

A colourful snowstorm in the bedroom.


Now an adult cat, Tabitha decides to wake me up

And my eyes open to a kitten emerging onto my chest

No respecter of the delivering fur-mum

She is deposited promptly on the floor

My memory is that it was near Anzac Day…why?


A Goroka event draws crowds

Meet up with Aunty Lee and

Let’s go see the gumithon…

Inner tubes and crazy passengers

Hurtle down the chilly river.


Ferry crossing PNG style – between Kerema and Malalaua (Gulf District). All government vehicles were spray-painted (or bought) in this dark blue colour.


A late night phone call frightens us

News of a colleague’s murder and

Name confusion in the panic

Anxiety and sadness follow.


We head to the movies

To See Easy Rider

(Of which I remember nothing)


What did the bishop say to the Prince? I’m lost for words! Independence ceremony at the Catholic Cathedral, Port Moresby 1975.

At the Goroka Cinema

Next to the Zokozoi Hotel.

And our truly weird movie experience

Papillon – for our anniversary

The only time we’ve walked out of a movie, I think.


“Mummy, there’s bugs in my room”

“No there’s not, go to sleep”

Afternoon nap time in Moresby

Eventually I check it out

He is sound asleep with the small fan

Whirring away in flames, sending black specks

Over the space to their bedroom. Whoops, good save.



You might think there’d be a zoo in PNG

Instead we took friends to the croc farm

Where we also saw cassowaries and

Magnificent Birds of Paradise

Day to Day we saw little fauna (frogs, snakes, geckos, possums)

And some ordinary birds

It may that many zoological specimens wound up as costumes.

Perhaps more quirky and weird than zany, but life was never dull in PNG.



Yumi bung wantaim

AtoZ2019YThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

The start of our life together in Papua New Guinea brought many adventures and experiences, and challenges.

Mitupela: At our reception as we start our new life wantaim.


Peters 21st Tower Mill 1970

The newly weds soon after our honeymoon. Dinner at the Tower Mill with his family and mine. Sadly, half of this group have already left us.


Tripela Time with the family. Above left: Great-grandmother Cass, Great aunt Olive Cass, maternal Grandma and spoiled baby. Lower left: Happy to be with dad and Aunty Lee. Right: Sending Uncle Philip home for Christmas.

Tripela: My dad with the grandchildren.  Tupela: I always loved this photo.

Kaye and Les Cass with Louisa and Rach 1976

Fopela: Cass grandparents and the grandchildren. The dog was a visitor.

Grandparents Joan and Norman Kunkel with Louisa and Rach 1976

Fopela: In Brisbane with their maternal grandparents at a cousin’s christening.


Peter Pauleen and girls c1978

This photo was taken not long before we left Papua New Guinea permanently. Before the year was out we would be faipela.

Tok Pisin:

Yumi bung wantaim – we come together

mitupela – the two of us

wantaim – together

tupela – two people

tripela – three people

fopela – four people

faipela – five people





























X is for PNG Xmases

AtoZ2019XThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

Every year the Christmas food

Includes my grandmother’s pudding

And her Scottish shortbread

My mother’s Christmas cake

A traditional hot Christmas dinner

In the tropics! Were we mad?

Louisa Xmas at Kelvin Grove 1972

Christmas in Brisbane. This little one’s first – presents were for eating apparently.

On our first married Xmas

We visited the trade store

Bought a Mouskouri LP

And some baubles for our gum tree

Rain had socked us in

Alotau expats desperate for Xmas treats

Arriving at the last minute – PMF’s meat

Dinner with the Strangs.


On our second married Xmas

On leave in Brisbane

Our baby’s first Christmas

Lots of small gifts and fun

Louisa and Xmas tree Goroka 1973

Her second Christmas – in North Goroka.

With her grandparents

Sadness at a family death.


On our third married Xmas

Now in North Goroka

The little one is enthralled

Her eyes sparkle at the tree


On our fourth married Xmas

Our family has grown larger

A sad little chicken greets her first Xmas

With very sore ears

A drive is needed to calm her down

Before gifts can be found



On our fifth married Xmas

We’re in another town now

Our tree another gum

Smiles are seen all round



Our sixth married Xmas

Two sets of grandparents are now in town

A larger family Christmas

With our friends from all around.



Our seventh married Xmas

We’re on our own again

Santa has brought a dolls house

Oh what fun!


Xmas 1977 at Casses

Gerehuligans gather.

Our eighth married Xmas

Will be our last here

New T-shirts proudly state

Ima Gerehuligan

Friends come from Brisbane

Family875Escorted by our little travellers

Fully confident flying solo.

Our turn for Xmas lunch

The Gerehu-ligans bring their share

Sitting round the garden

The sangria is well received

The peach daiquiris are a treat

Fruit sent up from mum and dad.

Three women in matching dresses

In a local printed design

(where did that photo go?).

The kids play games

The adults chat

An excellent day all round.





Wewak Wandering

AtoZ2019WThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

His father had two postings in Wewak

On the first, the headmaster

Brandi High School


Himself with his dad – they didn’t look alike at all. Tinka the dachshund takes pride of place.

For him, a new sibling and

Religious education for boarding school.


On the second posting

His dad was District Superintendent

East Sepik District.

We were able to visit their house on the hill

And spend time with the family.


Tok Pisin:

wantok – friend or relation

wanem – what

wanpela – one person/thing

wantaim – together

waswas – shower/wash/bath




V is for Variata Outings

AtoZ2019VThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

Our most popular weekend outing

To Varirata National Park

Or as we called it, Variarata,

Did it change or were we wrong all along?

Cass family and friends at Variarata copy

Family and friends sit on the fence, Variarata. © P Cass 1975.

It was another go-to place

For our visitors to Moresby

Out past Ilimo Farm,

Then Rouna Falls

To see if it was in flood.

All the kids loved to run and play

In the open spaces or across creeks

Or climb up the rickety stairs

To the bush materials tree house.

One Boxing Day, all the Gerehu-igans,

Adults and children, travelled in convoy

A barbeque in the bush

Variarata picnic view

To share with our Christmas visitors.

De rigeur was a photo of the crowd

Sitting on the fence

Overlooking the distant harbour.

Simple, happy times and memories.

view from Variarata

The view from Variarata.

vanimo png

This beautiful image is one taken by himself on an audit trip to Vanimo.




War in PNG – Anzac Day 2019

AtoZ2019WThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

No, I haven’t forgotten my alphabetical order, but today is Anzac Day in Australia so I’ve jumped over V to post W today.

Lest we forget

The meaning of war in the tropics

Comes home when you live there.


The Battle of Milne Bay Memorial at Alotau.

The pounding rain, the heavy clouds

The dense jungle obscuring villages.

No wonder some men were overtaken by fear

As the leaves closed in on them

(do read this link and the comments especially)

This poem by David Campbell captures it also –

An extract from Men in Green:

Their eyes were bright, their looks were dull

Their skin had turned to clay

Nature had met them in the night


Stained glass memorial in the Catholic church at Alotau. Photo P Cass 2012

And stalked them in the day.

And I think still of men in green

On the Soputa track

With fifteen spitting tommy-guns

To keep a jungle back.

Soon after my arrival in Milne Bay

Planes were searching through the clouds

For a crashed aircraft missing on a mountain of dense jungle

This sound on Anzac Day evoked a sense of war and danger

Bringing it home to me in a real way, not theoretical.

The Battle of Milne Bay should rank with Kokoka or Gallipoli

The first land defeat of the Japanese during the war

Needs to gain more prominence

A Victoria Cross won not far from our home

By Corporal John French from Crows Nest, Queensland.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

Sadds Ridge Rd sign

The allied airfield at Gurney was adjacent to Gili Gili Plantation

Where my husband worked before our marriage

An old street sign found there is a proud heirloom

A reminder of some ANZAC

For whom it was a little bit of home.




French and so many other men who gave their lives

Are buried in Bomana Cemetery in Port Moresby

A site where we took our visitors.

Kokoka Track memorial

Owers’ Corner

Another historic location for us to visit was Owers’ Corner

Near Sogeri, on the Moresby side of the Kokoda Track.

Last week I talked about my husband’s early days in Popondetta

Less than a decade from the war

It had been near the northern end of Kokoda

So many men would have succumbed without their own courage

Or that of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who supported them.

My uncle was an Army cook in PNG and I inherited his photographs. They do say an Army marches on its stomach.



Lest we forget

I have written two posts about Anzac Day as part of previous A to Z challenges:

V is for the Valiant of Villers-Brettoneux

V is for our Valiant Indigenous Anzacs.










Uniformity in housing


This series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

Public Servants and expats in PNG

Were provided with housing

Fibro external walls mostly

Louvres in all the windows for the breeze

Basic furniture and appliances

Maintenance by the Public Works Department.

21 Alotau house Cass

Our first home was the AR16 allocated to Mr Cassmob’s parents, who were in Moresby for a few months. Photo probably 1968 before his mother worked her magic in the garden.

Standard designs meant we always knew

Where all the rooms were –

No confusion over bathroom trips.

No matter that we would have the same layout

The residents’ personality was displayed

In their own possessions and styling

Visiting new friends could be quite fascinating

Looking at books and souvenirs.

Alotau 1960s view house 1

The view of Milne Bay from the relaxation area house #1, taken circa 1968.

The size house you were allocated,

And the location,

Often depended on status as well as

Family size and general availability.

We had three houses in Alotau

Two were three-bedroom AR16s

High set with concrete underneath for entertaining

Or just a cool breeze and an evening drink.

Our house at Nth Goroka 1971

Our north Goroka AR20 with the laundry downstairs, a vegie patch in the back corner, and a village over the fence.

Our final house was an AR10, two bedrooms, low-set

Quite the pain in the Wet Season with an infant’s nappies.

All had slow combustion stoves for heating and cooking

Chopping wood was part of the day’s ritual.

In North Goroka our home was a highset AR20

The laundry in the open downstairs, dirt “floor”

Baby’s playpen was a packing case near me.

Twin tub washing machines meant lengthy laundry sessions

No wonder, I suppose, that many expats had local house staff

Louisa and Rach with Les Goroka 1973

My father-in-law with the kids outside our West Goroka house. Big bear had been very sick.

I feared that if I started married life like that I’d never readjust.

We moved to West Goroka just the week before #2 child was born

A Dillingham, three bedrooms, low set

Across from the hospital and on the PMV route

Self-government came while we lived there.

Brandi in lounge room in Moresby c1978

Our Gerehu house – lounge room. Don’t have a hangover with those 70s curtains!

Our move to Gerehu in Port Moresby

Came with an M-type house, three bedrooms, low set

Trapdoors in the bedroom required a bookcase on top

A favourite point of entry for raskols

We acquire an automatic machine and a water bed

Not the government issued metal frame

We must be grown-ups now.

Neighbours became good friends.

Some now deceased, others are like family.

Alotau, Milne Bay wharf

The view from house #3 in Alotau spoiled us forever – what else could come close?




Travel and the Trobriands

AtoZ2019TThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea was my  introduction to travel

Not just for work relocations

But on charter flights or

Trips Down South to family and friends.

Photos taken by Les Cass at the Trobs, probably from the 1960s.

Charter flights for government work

Meant surplus seats offered to others

Anthropology 101 and Malinowski

Brought to life

On my first adventure to the Trobriands –

Painted gourds with pig tusks

Carvings of all sorts

Near naked men in loin cloths

You’re not in Brisbane now, Pauleen.

He is on a work trip and I get to joy ride

Off to Woodlark Island where I see surfPauleen and Peter Amsterdam

Then making it back to Losuia – just

Confound that 100 foot hill in the clouds.

A working-class girl from suburban Brisbane

I never anticipated travelling to Europe

Despite my enthusiasm and aspirations

Employment conditions change all that.

On leave every two years at first then every year

Airfare Goroka to Melbourne goes a long way

Towards Port Moresby to Europe.

Acropolis si

Acropolis 1974.

We tell the kids “go Rome, Athens?”

Then the offer comes…

“Go grandma’s?”. “No, Athens!”.

Now I can’t believe we left them so long

Thinking this would be “once in a lifetime”.

On another leave we introduce them

To New Zealand and interstate Australia

Visiting friends along the way.

High on a mountain Louisa Rach and Peter NZ 1975

In NZ….Those grins suggest they’re having fun! Himself is even wearing woollies!

Three years later they have quite an adventure

Pauleen Rach Louisa eat gelati 1st day Rome 1977

Even gelati barely cuts it when you’re tired and jet lagged.

“Go Rome” is not such fun after a long, long flight

Port Moresby – Manila – Bangkok – Karachi-Teheran

Arriving in Rome at “sparrow fart” all tired and frazzled

But we did see Mt Etna with snow and still steaming.

Three Coins in a Fountain becomes one daughter’s obsession

Thereafter all water needs coins!

Building snowmen Lucerne Easter 1977 Pauleen Louisa Rach

Our first snowman albeit a feeble effort.

I still see their faces full of excitement

Peter and girls at Buck Palace

Just a little snack outside Buckingham Palace.

On arrival at the station in Venice.

Stolen passport and money

Make Amsterdam a challenge.

New Delhi was another challenge too far

Those very long-haul flights don’t help.

However, Kathmandu exploring was fine

Supported by our friends who lived there

Louisa and Rach train Scotland

Trains, ferries, buses, cable cars, planes – they had quite an adventure! On the train in the Scottish Highlands.

A flight to see Everest

How many 6 and 4 year children can say that?

Himalaya and Everest

Mt Everest with its characteristic snow whisp.

So many adventures that we would never have had

Without our time in Papua New Guinea.

Tok Pisin:

tambu – forbidden

em tasol – that’s all – regularly used, even now

tenkyu tru – thank you very much

tingting – think













Sogeri, Samarai and Sadness

This series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Homesick and overwhelmed

By sights, sounds and smells

I write lengthy epistles


As blank as my lost letters.

To family and friends far away.

Countless pages about PNG’s

People, places and experiences

Sadly lost to posterity

In the backyard bonfire

Not realising their value to me.

I could weep at the loss

And wish I’d kept a journal instead.

We collate our combined memories:

Collecting a hire car

We drive his sister

From the Davara Motel to UPNG

People wandering home at Waigani

Singing and playing their guitars

Sliding door moments in Darwin

Evoke similar scenes and memories.

We take a day trip to Sogeri, now lost to my memory

His second home in Papua New Guinea.

Up the front steps, not his childhood route

Through the kitchen or windows

Prince Philip and Koitaki club.JPG

I was amused by this story about Prince Philip at the lavish Koitaki Club.  EVERYONE ASKS (1956, November 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 8.


We meet a missionary who greets us but doesn’t engage.

The concrete water dam out front, now empty,

Once pumped water to wartime army camps.

Then a playground for school kids who teased Shem, the dog

Until he was sent to a plantation at Brown River.

In a drought the water was brought in

The truck misjudged and broke through the septic tank

80 school boys, really young men

Go “Ensa, Huuuup!” and move it off the tank. Job done.

In his day swimming was more posh

At the Koitaki Country Club pool

Pauleen with Louisa and Rachel

Years later on day trips

Our kids would swim in nearby Crystal Rapids.

In the isolation of Alotau, a trip to Samarai

Was our trip to the Big Smoke –

The choice of Burns Philp (BPs) or Steamies (Steamships)

Both places where he worked in school holidays

My first gifts from him were from there.


All that remained of BPs in 2012. P Cass

Travelling to Samarai on a government trawler

With other government wives offered

Opportunities for shopping indulgence and choices

The travel was tedious, hours long, on the deck, not cabins

The redolent smell of diesel.

The curiosity of those who knew him as a teen

Checking out his new misis.


The school where his mother taught.

Decades later we return to see an island lost in time

No longer thriving shops, churches or schools

His home no longer stands but memories remain

Of school, Catalinas, and swimming at Deka Deka or

Rude tourists who raid shells under their house.

He is reconciled, I feel his loss.

You can read more about Samarai and our return trip in 2012 on my Troppont blog.

Tok Pisin:

save – (sounds a bit like savvy), know

sampela – some

samting – something

sodawara – sodawater was the word typically used for soft drinks

susu – milk




Genea-journeying – my tips

A friend asked on Facebook about the best strategy for doing genealogy journeys to the

P1070724 edit_edited-1

The sixpenny gatehouse for Ardkinglas estate where my James McCorkindale/McCorquodale lived.

United Kingdom – one trip or more? My response was definitely more than one to allow for learning and evaluating what one finds. It’s also made me think in greater depth about what I’ve learned over multiple trips to pursue my family history – as well as general travel. What worked, what maybe didn’t etc. Thanks to my friend Sharon who provoked this thought process.

What credentials do I have to speak on this topic? Well, I was a late starter to travel only commencing in my 20s but I’ve made up for it since. I’ve done multiple research trips, solo or with my other half. I’ve visited archives, libraries, places and cemeteries across the relevant states of Australia (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania), Ireland, England, Scotland and Germany (Bavaria).

So here are my tips, for what they’re worth. They will change with time because, as we know, nothing stays constant in the digital modern world.

Flights etc

When you live Down Under, unless you’re travelling within Oz, your first step is flights. Unlike our ancestors we no longer have to spend months at sea, though I have often reflected that perhaps our tolerance for long-distance travel was formed by their endurance on emigration.

We only ever fly economy. As much as turning left instead of right appeals once on board, I think of what else we can do with the dollars, or points, and reconcile myself to a tedious 24+ hours on the journey with minimal sleep (if I’m lucky). And at nearly 6 feet tall and with the airlines’ decreasing seat pitch, it’s certainly tedious, but like childbirth it’s soon enough forgotten. If you arrive in the early hours of daylight, keep going, get out in the sun and do something – I’ve found this the best way to combat jetlag.

Backrow farmhouse Sim home 2

My Sim family’s residence for a great many years, Backrow (aka Backraw) farmhouse, Bothkennar, Stirlingshire.

Compared to the flight costs, the expense on the ground is what adds up: the accommodation, hire car, meals, admissions etc. It’s the exchange rate that makes the difference – we’ve indulged when it’s been in our favour, and been “cheap Charlies” when it hasn’t.  At least we’ve balanced cheap accommodation on some nights with more comfortable accommodation on others. I don’t really subscribe to the theory that hotels are only a place to lay your head….for me it’s part of the experience. Travelodges and the like are fine when you’re in transit, being just off the motorways, but other times I want to stay in something like an oast house in Kent.

Take certified copies of your passport, certificates, insurance documents, and spare passport photos in case of theft.

A postcard of Das Goldene Fass mid-20thC. Kindly provided to me by Georg Veh, local historian.

Das Goldene Fass before its demolition for a bank in the 1960s. Image kindly provided by Georg Veh.


Apart from my thoughts above, one thing I consider is where is best to stay when I’m doing research in places that are less travelled. I’ve learned that it’s wise to stay at least one night in the area so you can avail yourself of local knowledge and maybe engender some curiosity about you – which might lead to more family information. Sadly, my ancestors’ inn in Dorfprozelten has been demolished so we had to stay in another one that dates from a similar time.

If you’ve made connections with cousins who still live nearby it gives you a chance to have a meal or a drink.

Leith shore and Melvins

Shore, Leith © Pauleen Cass 2010

When to go?

We have traditionally travelled off season – between October (the earliest) and May (the latest). This reduces cost and the impact of other tourists, but has to be balanced against weather, and whether the places you want to visit are accessible, or the research centres are closed for the season.

Internal travel at destination

On our first trips overseas we used train travel, but ever since we’ve used hire cars to get around, and frankly I don’t see how else you could do it, unless your ancestors came from one of the great urban areas like London or Glasgow. I have membership with various hire car companies which makes it both cheaper and easier when travelling. It also minimises the hassle if you have a family emergency at home and need to change your travel plans.

If you’re in a city, explore what local transport cards area available for bus, train or ferry. Apply before you leave home if possible.


Courtown Harbour. Photo P Cass 2016.

Research Homework

Now to the tough stuff. You absolutely MUST do your homework before you leave. Don’t head off overseas (or anywhere really) thinking that information will magically appear once you’re on the ground. Once it would have been a case of using fiche or microfilm but now we have the digitised resources online, some original images, some derivative or indexes.  Pretty much all libraries and archives have their catalogues online as well as their opening hours, guides, and other relevant information.


The church at Sandon in Hertfordshire where my Kent ancestors worshipped and held parish roles. P Cass 2010.

In particular, check:

  • Do you need a photo image? I didn’t when I went to the Scottish Record Office years ago and wasted time finding a photo shop to take a passport image. Now I always travel with spares (good “insurance” too if your documents are stolen).
  • What hours are they open and what days? Do they have lunch breaks? We got caught in Argyll because the archives took a lunch break….but I did find a nice pair of earrings as well as getting some food 😉
  • They’re not closing for public holidays etc etc.
  • Maybe there’s a genealogy conference you can tie into your visit – we were lucky when visiting Glasgow that there was a publicity event happening for genealogy and local history.
  • Lots of my genimates are signing up for RootsTech London or The Genealogy Show but I’ve decided against (so far!). I’ve been to London before and done some research so it’s not highest on my list right now though I’d love to reconnect with my genimates who are going. I look at the content of what’s on offer and what else has been on my travel bucket list before I make my decision. You can see my conference Pros and Cons

The house where Mr Cassmob’s ancestors lived before emigrating to Australia. Photo P Cass 2010

Archives and Reference Libraries

I don’t know about you, but I always find it takes me time to settle into an archive or reference library. Yes, they have guides online these days, and useful tips and hints, which must be added to the pre-trip preparation. However, being on the ground still makes a difference.

Pre-trip I go through the catalogues and decide what I want to look at. Usually I will print off the references I want to follow up. Yes, I also save them as a running document, but I personally find it helpful to have the printed information as well. Once I’m finished there, the pre-trip paperwork goes in the bin. But not my discoveries of course! Make sure you save them online as you go so there’s no risk of loss.


Peter looks at his family’s graves at Moorgate near Retford, Nottinghamshire. Photo P Cass 2006.


  • Do you need to pre-book your research table? This can be especially relevant if it’s peak season.
  • Do you need to order in documents/records which are held off-site? Omitting this can play havoc with your plans.
  • How are you going to get to the repository? How often is public transport? Do you have the application completed for a reader’s ticket? Is there an “admission” fee? Check their website. It’s so much easier now with information online.
  • You can bet your bottom dollar that the most relevant piece of information will be found in the last five minutes or just as the collections are being closed for the day. Sigh.
  • Balance your prepared list with serendipity. I didn’t expect to be so enthralled by the Kirk Session records in Edinburgh but they really are a gold mine.
  • Use online records even if they cost you money. Personally, now it’s possible, I much prefer to spend my money on ScotlandsPeople at home where I can compare my other information and evaluate what I’ve found. This means when I’m on site I can focus on records that are only available offline.
  • Don’t forget the local archives – on my next Scottish trip I need to spend time at the Edinburgh City Archives. If only there was more time.

Choose a supportive, independent travel partner

I’d be lost without Mr Cassmob who invariably finds the very grave I want, no matter how we quadrant the cemetery. He’s also independent and is happy toddling off to a museum while I bury my nose in an archive. You can meet up for lunch, or spend the morning in a gallery and the afternoon each doing your own thing. He’s also good at looking like he cares what I’ve found that day, or pondering my plan for the next. <smile>

On the other hand, you do need to spend some time together since that’s part of why you’ve done this trip. Hmmm, was it a good choice to visit the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh on a gorgeously sunny day? That or a rare photo of Leith in the sunshine? The jury’s still out on that one.

On the other hand, he drove me from one sign to the other at North Shields while I looked like a drowned rat taking photos at each.

Decide which one of you is the better navigator or driver? Work to your skills…makes for a more harmonious trip <smile>.


Serendipity – without an introduction from the local priest I’d never have met Paddy Q who introduced me to my O’Brien ancestors’ land. Photo P Cass 2006.


Allow for a buffer in your schedule. This is definitely something I’ve learned over time and genea-journeys. Serendipity comes from the most bizarre sources – a friendly cat, or a helpful priest. Both have given me information I’d never have found elsewhere. It makes you feel like you’re in your own version of Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA). A chance enquiry of a bloke mowing his lawn led us to great information about Mr Cassmob’s Retford ancestors, and a delightful experience after the Sunday church service. You get such great personal memories and engaging conversations when serendipity enters your travel agenda.

Buffer days in your itinerary also help -either to give you down time or in case serendipity creates a great opportunity.


The view down the main street of Dorfprozelten, Bavaria where my Happ and Kunkel ancestors had lived. The bank is on the site of the inn shown above, Das Goldene Fass.

Other practicalities

I may touch on these in another post but in the meantime you can visit these prior posts here, here, here and here. Things to consider are: phones in remote places (yes, there still are some), wifi, what documents/records to take, how to take them etc.

My key tips:

  • Buy topographical maps of your families’ areas. They are a potential goldmine! See if you can buy them online before you leave, or search them out at a good bookshop or large newsagent. Taking mine is a priority for me.
  • Keep your most important documents online at Evernote, or Dropbox or Google Drive or whatever. You’ll have them wherever you are – so long as you have wifi and most accommodation now provides that at least. With an Evernote professional subscription you can also choose to make some documents available offline eg travel papers, insurance, family history. I haven’t caught up with what’s happening with Evernote but I’ll be bitterly disappointed if this facility ceases to exist.
  • Skype (or Facetime): get yourself set up before you leave so you can ring home cheaply. Skype lets you set up a phone number local to home so people can ring you without great expense. I also add some credit so I can ring via Skype if I need to.
  • Download apps relevant to the area you’re visiting.
  • Look up the location and hours of family history societies for your family’s area. Remember they may have indexed information that’s not readily available elsewhere.
  • Talk to those who’ve been to your family places before, if possible. Get their advice and tips.

Whatever you do, enjoy the trip, seeing your families’ places, and experiencing the country or region where they lived.

Do you have comments or tips to add?

Do check out David’s wise words in the comments about thinking why you’re going and what you want to achieve. Thanks David.