PROVO (AP) — Most people who know Rob and Kathy Brown are either jealous or think the Browns have totally lost it. They've just started what has been dubbed "The Great-Great-Great-Grand Adventure: A Family History Journey."
The Browns sold their home in Orem and recently piled their five children, ages 18 months to 10 years, into a motor home hauling a 20-foot trailer and started a six-month trip throughout the United States. That's seven people, one motor home, 40 states and zero potty breaks.
The whole idea began earlier this summer, when the Browns discovered their new home wouldn't be built until next spring.
"It's the perfect time to do this," Rob Brown said. "Our children are young enough to not be involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, but old enough to remember and learn."
Kathy Brown had been home-schooling the children and wanted to show them the places they were studying. She also was doing family research through Ancestry.com to find places around the country where their great-great-grandparents came from.
"I'm most looking forward to the opportunity to focus on our family, past and present, without the distractions of everyday life," Kathy Brown said. "Plus, a motor home is a far more compact space to keep clean."
While looking for sponsors to help with the trip and finding a lot of genealogical information online, they shared their idea with Ancestry.com. The company was immediately sold. According to Matt Deighton of Ancestry.com, the mission of the company is to help everyone discover, preserve and share family history. The company has even covered the family's motor home with pictures of the Browns' ancestors and information on their adventure and how to follow their story.
"The Browns have taken this mission to heart as they planned their family history trip," Deighton said. "They have offered to let Ancestry.com document their journey so others can see the joy that is brought by researching their own family history."
In doing research, both Browns have found ancestry back to the Mayflower. Ancestry.com also has done some research on their family lines and meeting with some at various locations to surprise the Browns with stories and information about ancestors they may not know about. The family and Ancestry.com will document the six-month trip on video and through a blog.
While Nov. 2 was the big day they set off on the voyage, getting there has been a challenge and there have been delays. According to Kathy Brown, the delays may have been fortuitous.
"We would have been on the East Coast where Hurricane Sandy hit," Kathy Brown said. "We would have been in the middle of it."
"We should have been in New Hampshire today," Rob Brown added. "We've got good winter coats, good winter boots. We're from Utah, and we're ready."
Their extended family has been supportive of the adventure, but not without their moments of concern.
"Rob's mom said to him, 'you're a little too young for a mid-life crisis,' " Kathy Brown said.
Neighbors admit there has been a bit of envy in the cul-de-sac, but all in good humor. Most of their children have grown up together.
"It's so exciting to live vicariously through them. Everyone would take the chance if we could. I love family history," Melissa Clark said.
"When the kids get back in school they can say, been there, been there, been there, and oh yeah been there," Lisa Richards said.
The journey will be chronicled at Ancestry.com/Adventure.
Kathy Brown said she knows it's not going to be all rosy. She said the title of her first blog might just be, "Don't Make Me Come Back There, Because I Can."
Departure day started out with well-wishers and goodbyes at Ancestry.com headquarters. The family closed the door to their home of 11 years for the last time. They hugged and cried with their friends, gave kisses to the grandparents, joined a few hundred Ancestry.com employees for doughnuts and juice and then the Browns — Audrey, 10; Sophie, 7; Harvey, 5; George, 3; Sam, 18 months and Kathy and Rob — climbed into the motor home. They waved and honked the horn.
As they started up the engine, Rob Brown yelled to the crowd, "We'll see you on the highway."