For those lucky enough to have access to their family tree there is still a mountain of paperwork to sift through in order to find out where exactly their ancestors came from. The rise in popularity of DNA kits, easily completed at home, has meant an increase in curiosity- especially for those whose DNA report shows unexpected results. Similarly, online research for one’s family roots is now easier than ever. This also means that more and more people are choosing to take genealogy vacations. Should you choose to, it may be possible to visit the villages and cities where your ancestors once lived.

Khotyn Fortress under a full moon in Chernivtsi Oblast, Ukraine. Via/ Wiki Commons

So How Does It Work?

Given the increase in air travel, this type of vacation is now easier than ever to achieve. There are companies which now specialize in genealogical travel. Some companies will book an entire trip for you and even secure connections to local archivists, libraries, and churches that may have valuable information about your family line.

Many of these companies focus on one geographical area. There are companies which operate solely in Ireland or France or India. This is helpful because, if there is a language barrier then doing it all on your own could prove difficult.

Glynn Village, Ireland. Via/ Flickr

Other companies offer destination-based resources, like The Shelbourne totel in Dublin which was founded in 1824 and has a genealogy butler on staff to help guests who are there to do research. Many Americans may be looking to go to Ireland since so many Irish families fled to the U.S. during the Potato Famine. However, regions without a history of mass migrations may not offer these types of services.

The Shelbourne in Dublin, Ireland. Via/ Flickr

Planning a Trip Yourself

You can also choose to plan a trip entirely on your own. It’s helpful to make a general list of goals before you get to your destination, like specific origins of a family member or clarification of which town a specific branch originally hailed from.

You’ll also have to do a bit of investigation on what resources are offered at your destination(s). Each municipality may have different types of archives, so it’s helpful to know if you’ll need to visit a museum, a church, a library, or all three in order to find the specific birth, death, marriage, or immigration records you’re seeking.

Subjects of the Ottoman Empire in traditional dress. Via/ Library of Congress

Once there you should plan to make copies of relevant documents. Paper copies, photographs, and even tombstone rubbings will be useful once you get back home and need to compile or share that data. Of course, keeping everything online is an easier way to consolidate the large amounts of data that come from doing such genealogical research and you should not travel with originals of family documents if at all possible.

Given the volume of work that can go into planning a trip like this it’s no wonder that many people are choosing to enlist the help of a travel agency or hotel that caters to the genealogical traveler. In the end some combination of your own study on the place and the help of a travel company may prove most useful.

Photochrom of Berlin, Germany, around 1900. Via/ Library of Congress

With all this in mind, even coming away with little new information can still be a rewarding experience. Many travelers find that standing in the place their ancestors once lived can be a fulfilling experience. To see the landscape and architecture that one’s forefathers once enjoyed can make the journey well worth the trouble.

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