You don’t have to be a world-renowned personality or an architectural masterpiece to have a history attached to you. No matter who you are, you have a historical legacy. There is nothing more rewarding than tracing the path of your ancestors and seeing your life in a new light through family heritage travel.
Thanks to the technological strides, rise in DNA testing, and sites like Ancestry.com, there is an upsurge in people who want to become familiar with their roots. This interest in wanting to get acquainted with one’s personal history has given rise to the trend of genealogy tourism.
Genealogy tourism is unlike any other travel type. It is about discovering yourself rather than discovering places. From heritage tours to research-based travel, there are a variety of ways in which you can trace your heritage. No matter which way you choose, the tips given below are going to help you make your ancestry travel an enriching one.
Do Your Research
Thoroughly research each location that you would be visiting. What places would you be visiting in each location? What are the timings for their operation? Is the location a venue for any annual/religious festival that could be of help to you? You can undertake your research in two ways.
- DIY by reaching out to your relatives
Older relatives are a treasure trove of information and stories about your heritage. Reach out to your relatives and listen to their experiences. They might have artifacts or letters that might be useful for you from a genealogical perspective. Remember to put down a few bullet points that you need to ask them but more importantly to and record any information they share. You could even reach out to your relatives through online ancestry sites like Ancestry.com. People whose DNA partially matches with you are listed on the site along with your relationship with them. These people can be utilized as a resource in filling up the gaps in your family tree. It is important however to verify the information with records or proof, otherwise, you may find yourself researching someone else’s family instead of your own.
- Hire a Professional
Although the process of research is a very fascinating one, it is also a very daunting one. With so much information to collect and sift through, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Additionally, there could be time constraint which could prevent you from devoting the kind of time the research requires. Working with a professional like Laura Scalzitti, owner and genealogist at History Runner, can aid you in the depth of your search. These professionals are trained to dig deep into the ocean of genealogy and cull out what is relevant for your purpose.
Determine an Area of Focus
Maybe you want to visit the house where your great grandfather spent his formative years or the school he went to. Or maybe all you want to do is feel your roots by soaking in the surroundings of your homeland. Whatever the shape of your identity pursuit, you will need to have a plan and an area of focus. Think about which locations you want to visit and if there are any living relatives you would like to meet.
Engage a Travel Professional
Once you know the general direction of your identity search and have more specifics of areas you would like to focus on, work with a travel professional that can craft an itinerary that allows you to dive deeper into the journey of your family heritage. Hiring a professional will ensure a bespoke experience for you that serves your requirements.
In combination with a genealogist, a travel professional can help with the logistics of ancestry tours. If the search for your family tree takes you to Europe, work with a travel professional who specializes in Europe for all of your travel needs. This will ensure a family heritage trip that would not only take you to places that you want to visit but connect you to the professionals in the field and curate a tour especially designed for you. As a European travel specialist, I am committed to providing a trip that will go down as one of the most significant trips you will ever take.
Manage your Expectations
Family histories can be a messy affair and the puzzle pieces rarely fit together neatly. They don’t always turn out the way we want them to. Even the most seasoned genealogist may come to an impasse. Don’t let any of this pull your spirits down. Expectation management is the key to optimizing your experience. What if you aren’t able to visit the same house as your forefathers but you could still be a part of the same air they breathed by walking on the same cobbled streets that they would have walked. It is best to begin your research on your family history first before setting expectations for your ancestry trip.
Have a Conversation with the Locals
Locals have a lot of information and trivia to share about the bygone era. Shake your reluctance and knock on the doors of strangers. You’d be surprised by the wealth of stories that tumble out during a conversation over some coffee and snacks. These stories are going to be a great value add to your quest.
“I am somewhat shy by nature, so I surprised myself when on my great-grandmother’s home island, I knocked on a stranger’s door and introduced myself. The man who lived there not only remembered my family but he and his wife later came to our hotel to visit with us. He shared priceless stories about my great-great-grandfather.”
- Laura, History Runner
Have Documents Ready
Tracing your roots becomes easier when you are armed with the right kind of preparation. Ensure that you have all the relevant documents which would be helpful in your family history quest. Copies of birth and death certificates, address proofs, wedding announcements, and invitations, and obituaries. All these paper trails would serve as clues for you to put the different pieces of your pursuit together. Laura recommends keeping both digital and hard copies with you while you travel in case your cell phone service is spotty. If you are visiting smaller towns for ancestral purposes, you may be unable to bring up your digital family tree and documents.
Document your Experience
Documenting your experience is the best way to immortalize your journey. Record every conversation, every visit, every story. Take tons of photos or videos for your family back home so they can vicariously take part in your experience. Many years down the line if a family member wishes to follow in your footsteps, your documented memories would be the first stop they’ll make.
Ready to start planning a family heritage trip?
Planning ancestry travel can be an intimidating task. Once you are armed with the requisite information for the trip you are dreaming about, reach out to me so I can help you plan from beginning to end for this once in a lifetime trip. I specialize in providing customized European vacations and with my first-hand experience of living in various European countries, along with my connections worldwide, I can help you get closer to your lineage.
If you need assistance with the genealogy aspects of your trip, I highly recommend scheduling a consultation with Laura at History Runner for personalized research that can help bring your family heritage to life. She even has significant experience in Chicago, Midwest, Italian, Irish and German Records.
Undertaking ancestry travel could be emotionally overwhelming, a feeling of deja-vu might envelop you when you visit places that are stamped by the presence of your forefathers. A family heritage trip is a great way to be familiar with your roots and understand your lineage.