Tips on Visiting Ancestors Homes in London

Visiting ancestors homes helps you put your family history in context.

Are you planning to visit ancestors in London or another ancestor’s town? If you are planning to have a trip back to a country where your parents, grand or even great-grandparents immigrated from then this blog post is about traveling to ancestors homes, in particular visiting London.

Visiting ancestors homes: London Tower Bridge

My Grandmother was born near Tower Bridge. Grace Shepherd DOB 1896.

It’s best to locate these places by doing some research before you leave. Seems obvious yet Internet access can be dodgy in some hotels or places making in-depth research difficult. Lack of your usual computer can also hamper easy checking out details such as public transport and maps.

If I intend to go to a place in London I usually print off a google map of the local area. Include a local tube station or above ground station so you always have a way back to public transport. I do use my iPhone with maps I have downloaded that do not need Internet access. The GPS capability in many smart phones means that these maps will show you your location as long as it is not too cloudy and satellite signals can be received. If satellites are not available or if you run out of phone batteries, paper maps still work! Check your phone apps store for free maps.

Also, be aware of using a data service on your own devices while overseas. You do not want to get a fright when you see your next bill.

Visiting ancestors homes: Tower of London Near Tower Bridge

New and old buildings in London

For large cities like London, you can use public transport to get closer and then walk to the location. This is primarily the Tube or buses. The famous Tube map is not in proportion to the actual distances so it cannot be used it to estimate travel times. Also, check line closures especially on weekends when whole or parts of lines may be closed. With the network nature of the tube, you should still be able to get to your destination by changing lines or sometimes a special bus service operates.

The within the train are line plans and station names are well marked at each station. Check out the first few stations to ensure you are going in the correct direction. Once you arrive at your destination tube station there are usually one-page local maps freely available.

The walk might be a short walk or longer depending on what transport you selected. I like to do the walk as you get closer as you get to see the locality close up. Yes, things may have changed. If you are fortunate you will get to see something your relative saw. Amazing when this can be more than a century later.

Standing outside someone’s house can be a little daunting. Should you sneak a photo or not? Should you knock on the door? Most of the addresses I have checked have nonoriginal buildings. Having been  rebuilt since my relatives lived there the emotional link is to the location and not the actual home.

Once finished and you are heading back to your hotel be open to taking a bus. If you have been walking the streets you may have noticed bus stops. Most bus stops are well signed with routes and I have found Londoners helpful.

Inexpensive Tours while Visiting Ancestors Homes

Up front, up top with the double-decker buses you get a great view. They go slow enough to see lots and are inexpensive. Beware of the stairs, they are steep and hang on if the bus starts moving. I look at this like it is my own tour service. Also a great break for weary legs or sore feet.

While out visiting ancestors homes you may also want to watch for necessities like toilets or cafes for a coffee.

You can get different types of bus and tube/train passes to save on the cost. If you are around a few days it is worth investing in an oyster card for ease of use and access to greater savings. Usually, you can top up at small shops.

On one of these self-touring bus trips, I have passed a land agent called Winkworth Kentish Town Estate Agents at 306 Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town, Greater London where my GGG father was a jeweler and watchmaker. To see the surrounds and part of the original building are exciting.

Do you think you will visit an ancestor’s home town?
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