Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Our National Parks - Tuesday's Tip

My family and I just returned from a terrific vacation to Orlando. To get there, we drove 900 miles across six states. We always budget quite a bit of time for our drive to and from our vacation spot because we inevitably find great places to stop. On this particular trip we drove through Vicksburg, Mississippi so we had to stop at the National Park Service's Vicksburg National Military Park. One of my Civil War ancestors, Samuel O. McGuire, was captured by the Union just east of Vicksburg at the Big Black River.

We were not able to stay long at the park because we arrived around 4 p.m., just prior to closing, but we had a wonderful time viewing the park movie, visiting the gift shop and driving the self tour around the park. Our tour of the park reminded me of the importance of National Parks in preserving our history, and in turn, helping us to relive our ancestors' experiences. When I learned that my ancestor was captured outside of Vicksburg, I began reading many books and stories of the battles there, but those accounts are nothing compared to walking the land. I was able to see the steep hills, feel the heat and see the trenches (which are still there) that he had to contend with. None of which I could grasp through a book.

Started in 1916, the National Park Service manages 84 million acres of land, 2,461 national historic landmarks, 582 national natural landmarks, 393 national parks and 40 national heritage areas (as of 2008). The Service's mission is "to care for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage." That is a mission that should be near and dear to any genealogist's heart. Walking through any one of our National Parks or Landmarks is a phenomenal way to walk in our ancestor's footsteps and should be considered when planning research trips or vacations.

For more information about the National Park Service, explore their website. Each of the larger parks and landmarks have their own page with historical information and numerous photographs.


Jennifer said...

I LOVE National Parks. We drove from Alaska to Georgia and then Georgia to Washington (state) and back last year. We must have hit at least 20 parks and had such a great time!
I hope you enjoyed your vacation to Disney (and that you didn't hit the Spring Break crowds!)

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

We also love the National Parks passport. It is fun to document what parks we have been too.
We had a great time at WDW! I was only four-years-old at my last visit so I didn't have much to compare the crowd to. It was very crowded, but I don't think it was as bad as maybe summer would get. Next time we visit I think we'll head there a week earlier like you all!