This blog is a reprint of my internet journal from 2001 to 2002 in which I documented my "vagabond" solo journey in a Chevy Conversion Van tracing my roots. I not only traced their paths and found their homes and final resting places, but I did extensive genealogical research in court houses, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, cemeteries, and talked to the local people. I traveled with a laptop to upload my notes and photos, and use e-mail. It was a fantastic journey which lasted two years. I had no other home except my van to sleep in...just a bed and video player. My household goods were put into storage for two years. My mail was delivered to me at general delivery when I phoned "MailBox, etc." and told them where to send it. At night I stayed in campgrounds, motels, friends' backyards, friends' homes, and those of the few living relations I've tracked down. As I traveled I collected so much genealogy information, that I had to get rid of items that I had originally thought essential to my travels (like a microwave oven). Between ancestral sites, I visited any tourist sites I could find and got to know alot about the USA. This was a trip of a lifetime and I'm still sorting through all the wonderful memories, photos and invaluable genealogical data I found. I will post to this blog as I can - one or a few days at a time of that journey from 2001 to 2002

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ancestor Tracking - around Charlottesville, VA - 25 May 2001

25 May 2001 Charlottesville, VA area  - KOA Campground

I slept late and well, then took off to find the Walton’s Mountain of the Walton’s TV show. Unfortunately I turned out of the campground in the wrong direction because I was thinking the campground was on the south side of the road – it wasn’t. So despite my very detailed map, I couldn’t find the right highway. I stopped at a rock quarry to ask directions, but the guy had to run and answer a phone. Finally I took out my GPS and it knew exactly where I was, and it agreed with the maps, despite my thinking the maps were wrong- sure. Heading in the right direction I drove through some really beautiful land. Very hilly and green, lots of trees. Beautiful, old, backwoods type area. I took some very rural roads, holding my breath each time I approached another vehicle on the narrow, nearly one-lane road. I haven’t gotten comfortable with the van width yet.
Walton  Mt Museum at Schuyler
 The home of Earl Hamner, the original “John-Boy Walton” of the TV show was raised in Schuyler, VA.  I was surprised his house was actually in the tiny town, and not up by itself on the way to Walton’s Mountain.  The town had prospered due to a soapstone quarry and works in the town.  Earl’s father worked there.  There were several old churches.  Ike Godsey’s” store, has now burned down.  The school is now made into a community center and museum for the Waltons.  Several rooms are made up to appear as the Walton’s home on TV looked. 
"Ike Godsey's Store"
"Walton's Living Room"
I watched a video and was amazed at how similar all the Walton kids looked like the real Hamner kids.  Earl Hamner helped with the original casting, and even chose Richard Thomas to play himself.  Ate next door at the Schuyler Family Restaurant, and enjoyed the lunch and down-home service.
Real and TV "John Boy" Walton / Hamner

The real Walton / Hamner home
Heading back to Charlottesville I took the tiny Rockfish River Road – quiet and isolated, each turn a picture of peacefulness.. The rain came again as I was getting back into Thomas Jefferson’s neighborhood. Reminded me of two years ago during Hurricane Dennis (?) how I slogged through the downpour to visit Monticello. Today I would visit Ashlawn-Highlands, the home of James Monroe, 5th President of the US, and good friend of Jefferson. Last time I only got as far as the parking lot, then due to a ticking clock, pulled back out to be able to get back to Ft Bragg, NC in time for work at the hospital. Well, no work schedule for me today.

Rockfish Road

Ash Highlands - home of James Monroe
A very modest home for ex-president Monroe back in the early 1800’s. He wasn’t of the new aristocracy as were Washington and Jefferson. The home, slave quarters, and overseer’s house were nicely kept, and maintained by the College of William & Mary. Next on the agenda, driving past Monticello, was a stop at Michie’s Tavern. Built in the late 1700’s as a home, it became a tavern and lodging place for travelers. The tour was different in that it wasn’t a regular home, and included a well, an outhouse or “necessary”, a spring house, curing shed, and grist mill. There is also no lack of souvenirs for the tourists to buy, but I was able to resist these, as my van won’t hold much.
Michie's Tavern

Room at historic Michie's Tavern
Back at the campground, there was a bustling of activity, as the Memorial Day Weekend has begun. All spots were filled except a couple tent sites. It’s kind of nice to see the kids playing and all the activity. I was happy in my van. It was still raining lightly. For dinner I finished the potato salad left from Walton’s Mt, and the remainder of the asparagus, plus some triscuits (my daughter’s favorite) with Apple Chutney (OK I couldn’t resist buying that). Used the van battery for a half hour of news on the TV and 45 minutes of reading lights. The test will be if the van battery starts in the morning. ??


  1. Oh Donna! I want to go there so badly! Lucky you!

    Ancestor Tracking Road Trips are my favorite kind. How wonderful you were able to do it. I look forward to reading your posts!

  2. How fun! We went to Charlottesville last year - what a beautiful area!

  3. Great concept! Best wishes!
    Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  4. We were there last year and stayed at a bed & breakfast not too far from there. Growing watching the Walton's it was a queer feeling to visit there.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)


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