As the saying goes, America is a melting pot. Virtually all of us have roots in another country and as our society becomes more globally aware, many of us are interested in finding out more about our heritage. That curiosity might stem from a grandparent’s stories of growing up in “the old country” or a desire to understand why distant ancestors came to America and what their journey was like. Convenient international travel and internet search capabilities have made genealogy travel a growing trend. Travel is a marvelous way to discover your roots, so here are some tips for genealogy travel.
Types of Genealogy Travel
There are several approaches to genealogy travel. The type of travel you choose should depend on what you hope to accomplish on the trip. If you’re in the fact-finding stage of your family research, you’ll want to arrange access and time to conduct research in the local library, state, and church records. If you want to visit the actual buildings where ancestors lived or meet newly found relatives, you’ll need a customized independent trip plan.
Maybe you don’t have specific details of where your ancestors were born but want to learn about the general history and culture of their homeland. A tour or independent travel can give you a sense of the place. Travel Maestro tip: There is no right or wrong genealogy travel method. You can incorporate elements of research, personal interaction, and cultural discovery as you wish to find your roots.
Genealogy Travel Resources
For family history research, the National Archives in Washington, DC have tremendous resources. In addition to census, land, and immigration records, they offer genealogy research tips, workshops, and events that can get you started or take your research to the next level. Travel Maestro tip: Make it a true family trip and take the kids to visit the monuments of Washington, DC.
Europe Travel guru, Rick Steves recommends using Europe’s Emigration Museums to discover more about your heritage. In addition to documentation of when and where family migrations took place, several excellent museums in Europe offer powerful insights as to why people left their home country.
Genealogy tours that focus on a particular country of origin allow travelers to experience the culture of their heritage and also personalize their genealogy search. For example, Aer Lingus offers a flexible “Discover Your Roots” package that includes one night in a Dublin hotel, an hour with an Irish genealogy specialist, five nights prepaid B&B vouchers, and a rental car to explore on your own. Travel Maestro fun fact: One in nine Americans has some Irish heritage!
For personally customized genealogy travel, experienced genealogical guides can be hired to escort families through their country of origin and help them locate sites relevant to their individual heritage.
The True Value of Genealogy Travel
By taking a trip to your familial homeland, you glean insight into the culture and lifestyle of your ancestors. When you see the geography that your forefathers tamed, walk the very paths they may have trod, and taste traditional dishes flavored by local produce, you begin to get a picture of what their lives were like. If you’ve already done research on your past relatives, genealogy travel expands your understanding of who they were, filling in some cultural gaps that can’t be recorded on paper.
Visiting your ancestral land is enlightening even if you haven’t begun your research yet. You may discover an affinity for the place that seems to reside deep in your genes, or possibly you’ll start to understand why your forbearers left their homeland for greener pastures. That connection may motivate you to start your research and dive into the annals of history to uncover more. Travel Maestro tip: Whether travel takes place before, during, or after your family research, visiting the places your ancestors lived deepens and broadens your understanding of your own cultural heritage.
To plan your own discovery of family roots through travel, please contact Covington’s expert vacation advisors.