Monday, May 01, 2006

Extreme Genealogy... An Interesting Idea

(Manure mission at the Firestone Farm at Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI)

PBS has come up with a television series that will be of interest to genealogists, and it airs for the first time tonight. It's called
Texas Ranch House and it's a reality TV sort of thing but instead of being stranded on a remote island (like the Survivor series) these participants take up residence on a Texas ranch... but it's a ranch set back in the time of 1867! How cool is that?

The lucky participants get to try their hands at living the lives of their ancestors. Isn't that every genealogist's dream? I know it would certainly thrill me to have this opportunity! Having said that, my ancestors weren't here in American in 1867 so this particular setting wouldn't do it for me. But think of the possibilities...

What if you could choose an experiential vacation that sent you to a different era instead of a different destination? Would you do it? Oh I know you can sort of do that kind of thing now by visiting a dude ranch or even spending a day at Greenfield Village or Williamsburg. But in those places, you're just a visitor. You don't have the responsibility for working out the details of survival because they're already planned for you. But what if you could reenact your grandparents' lives when they first immigrated to the U.S... what if you could choose to have a week's "experience" in say the early 1900s in Detroit?

Imagine living in close quarters, with minimal lighting, few automobiles, clothing that wasn't wash and wear, groceries that needed to be bought every few days or so for freshness... Imagine living in a neighborhood where everyone spoke Polish and you had to learn how to negotiate your way around. Imagine living with the cultural constraints... before women's liberation (remember, women didn't get to vote in the U.S. until 1920!) and when men were expected to take care of "the women folk". Would you like to live that way (for a week or two or three) or would you prefer to just stroll down the isles of the Henry Ford Museum that showcase the early lightbulbs, clothing, and automobiles?

I for one would love to visit my grandparents' era. Sign me up at ! It could be a whole new tourist industry. If someone with entrepreneurial spirit started a string of "experiential vacations" they could make a bundle! I'm sure there are a lot of people out there like myself that would love to spend a week in time... say the 1910s or Roaring 20's in Chicago or Detroit, living the life of a new Polish immigrant to America. Or perhaps if your ancestors immigrated to New England in the 1800s you could spend a week in the Boston of that day... or a southern plantation of that day if your ancestors were from the south. The main difference from merely vacationing at "historic settings" in these same cities today would be that you'd have to live the lifestyle not just visit the buildings... and make your own way. What a challenge!