More than 20 years ago, Mike Campbell of Carrollton, Georgia, set out to trace his forebears, starting with his great-grandfather, Thomas Porter Campbell, who, at the time of the 1840 U.S. census, was living in Paulding County, Georgia. His search led him to kin on two continents and a family history that reaches back to 1066.
He worked with relatives – affectionately known as the “Campbell Cousins Research Group” – backtracking from his great-grandfather to a Scottish ancestor who emigrated to colonial Maryland in 1750. In 2009, he engaged Atlanta-based Virtuoso advisor Claire Schoeder to design a roots-research trip to fill in the blanks.
“Claire had been to Scotland. She was also a realist, and I didn’t know what I was looking for,” Campbell says. “She had so much insight about the country,” he adds, and equally important, she was able to ask key questions about how Campbell wanted to travel. For example, he says, “Did I want to see it from the road or go out and walk among the people?”
“It’s not only what you know, but who you know,” says Schoeder, who has also assisted travelers tracing family roots in France, Germany, Italy, England, and Ireland. “One of the benefits of being a Virtuoso travel advisor is that we have so many local connections across the globe,” she notes. “I’ve been able to work with them to help clients locate places or people they’ve learned about in their research.”
On his trip to Scotland, she based Campbell in seaside Oban and pointed him to ancestral sites that included the Kilmun Parish Church and its Argyll Mausoleum, burial place for Clan Campbell of Argyll since the fifteenth century. She also encouraged him to chat with residents, and, as luck would have it, one conversation in a bookstore led to more family information.
Now Campbell can trace his roots to the 1066 Norman Invasion: His family name may have come from a French word for “crooked smile.” He’s presently working on creating his own family flag.
“When you achieve a certain stature of having your own arms or heraldry, you can put that feather in your cap,” he says. “I want a feather in my cap.”