heritage travel 101
Heritage Travel

Heritage Travel 101: How to Begin to Plan a Heritage Trip

It was a handwritten map. One my new-to-me cousin drew it out on the back of his mother’s lunch menu.  

If I followed the map I would drive past past the river my grandmother and her cousins swam in. I would find the church where the family attended for generations were buried.  I would find the home place and stand where my great great grandparents lived and worked.

Scuffletown, Virginia. Not exactly a tourist destination, but a destination my family history took me.

Scuffletown Va map

Heritage travel , also know as heritage tourism, is a fast growing area of the travel industry. The rise in DNA testing and the growth of genealogy researchers naturally leads into the popularity of heritage travel taking us on the search and connecting to their roots.

With shows such as Who Do You Think You Are and Finding Your Roots showcasing fascinating stories uncovered for celebrities, it is no wonder our interest has been piqued about our own roots. We wonder what stories are hiding in our family tree and who we might be related to.   Is it any surprise genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies?

We wonder what mysteries might be hiding in our DNA. More than 26 million people have taken at home DNA tests by the beginning of 2019. (That’s a lot of spit!)  With the discovery of one’s ethnic heritage, for the first time, individuals are taking “DNA vacations” to experience an ancestor’s culture.

What is Heritage Travel?

Heritage travel is simply traveling to cities and towns where your ancestors lived and worked. It’s finding the connections to your ancestors by learning about their culture, what they saw and what they ate. 

How to plan heritage travel
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Traveling to your ancestor’s homeland is about understanding a your ancestors better – understanding why they did what they did and made the decisions they made. Immersing oneself in an ancestor’s culture provides you a unique way to connect to your roots. To feel that spiritual connection to your ancestors and to feel grounded.

Embarking on a heritage tour does not have to be complicated. You can plan and execute your own heritage travel plans or join a heritage tour group dedicated to a particular country  or region.

Planning for Your Personal Heritage Tour – First Steps To Bringing Your Research To Life

Genealogy researchers do not research without a plan, and heritage tourists should travel without a plan. Starting with a plan will ensure you see and do all that your wish to do.

Keep in mind not all heritage travel needs to be “back to the old country “. 

Did your ancestors come into America through Ellis Island? A visit to Ellis Island can help you find the connection and understanding to your ancestors.

Step One – Decide which ancestral line you want to know more about. 

Your first step is to the research.  You must build your family tree and learn about your family in order to determine where you need or want to go.  

Emma Harward Heritage Travel post

Step Two – Find where your ancestors came from.

Finding where your ancestors came from can be fairly simple – or not.

Learn more about the types of records you can use in your genealogy research to find an ancestor’s place of origin HERE.  The most important thing to consider is we cannot find our immigrant ancestors or their homeland abroad unless we know who the immigrating ancestor is. Often researchers overlook the fact that the answer to “where did my immigrant ancestor come from?” is actually in their U.S. based records or the ancestor’s “new” homeland records. 

Step Three – Decide if you will go on your own or prefer to join a tour group.

heritage tour italy

You may be more adventuresome and want to plan your heritage trip on your own.  There are certain advantages to this as you can do exactly what you wish and can design your trip specific to your needs.  However, you may prefer to have someone else do the planning and to make the actual travel and lodging arrangements.  [That would be me, but I have a husband in the travel business, so I have the best of both worlds.]

If you want help planning your ancestry trip, you will find many resources available. Ancestry’s ProGenealogists offers  one of a kind guided heritage tours, ancestral home visit tours and genealogy cruises.  

For both group and individual travel assistance, check out Travel Your Tree. As a professional genealogy researcher and travel expert, Lisa Vogele can help you plan your own heritage travel needs. 

Researching and connecting with your Jewish heritage? The Jewish Travel Agency offers customized itineraries and group tours.

Heritage Travel When You Cannot Travel

Can you still experience the benefits of heritage travel even when you cannot physically travel? 

Yes. Yes, you can.

google maps

As I write this, the world is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Unusual and scary times at best. Travel of all kinds and to all destinations has essentially halted. 

Regardless of the reason you cannot travel – physical limitations, monetary limitations or a pandemic – technology allows us to “travel” the world and still connect with our ancestral roots. 

Google maps and Google earth allow us to “travel” to an ancestor’s former address. Using the street view , you can take a “walk down the street”.  You can walk past locations your ancestors frequented such as places of worship, tenement buildings, parks and cemeteries.

Additionally, many museums have collections online. Explore the museums in the area where your ancestors lived or specific cultural museums to learn more about the everyday life of your ancestor. 

Start planning your heritage travel now and put a bit of adventure in your genealogy!

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