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Beacon Senior News

Explore your family tree with genealogy tourism

Jul 26, 2021 02:17PM ● By Victor Block
Photo album featuring old family photographs, genealogy tourism

Who do you think you are?


In planning a visit to Poland, the land where his ancestors lived, Bernard Janicki used the internet to get his travel itinerary started. 

He first tracked down the parish priest in the village where his mother had been born. When he arrived in that small town, the pastor helped him examine church records dating back to the early 20th century.

Using the information he gathered, both in person and online, Janicki was able to trace his grandfather’s lineage to 1819, and the maternal side of his family all the way back to 1751. Thus, he became one of an increasing number of people who’ve made genealogy tourism—combining travel with the research and tracing of family roots—one of the fastest-growing segments of the tourism industry.

Many people use the wealth of records and information available online to begin their trip down memory lane without having to leave home. A few quick searches can unearth census records, ship passenger lists, immigration documents and a treasure trove of other data.

The National Archives, for example, contains a motherlode of information. Another essential tool is www.cyndislist.com, a free categorized and cross-referenced list of more than 335,000 links to helpful resources. Categories include localities, ethnic groups, religions and more. If planning a trip, this can help one locate archives, courthouses, cemeteries and other places holding information on one’s family history before leaving home.

More than two million people have subscribed to Ancestry.com, which claims the title as the world’s largest online resource for family history information. It has digitized, indexed and published billions of historical records on its 18 separate websites, and its users have created more than 70 million family trees. Other sources can add to the avalanche of facts and figures.

But no amount of knowledge can compete with the thrill of personally contacting relatives you might not have known existed, or visiting places where one’s forebears lived and family roots were planted.


Group travel

For those seeking such hands-on experiences, tour companies offer both organized group trips and individual visits to states and countries where birth, marriage, death and other sources of information await discovery. There are even genealogy cruises for people who prefer to combine learning with the opportunity to take to the high seas. 

Family Tree Tours takes small groups of travelers to Germany, Poland and Ireland, where they use one location as a home base and explore nearby regions by train. The company obtains research information from tour members in advance, which is forwarded on to researchers on the scene who make contacts and arrange meetings in each family’s village. Family Tree also offers private tours.

For those looking for genealogy tours closer to home, agencies such as Ancestor Seekers and Ann-Mar Genealogy Trips arrange visits to Salt Lake City, Utah. Salt Lake’s Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the world’s largest depository, with records from more than 100 countries. Trip participants have access to the center’s voluminous information while also able to enjoy a rehearsal of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir or a tour of the magnificent 35-acre Temple Square Garden during their free time.

A researcher helps an Ann-Mar Genealogy Trips tour member

 

Personalized trips

If a personalized tour is more up one’s alley, Ancestral Footsteps offers the ultimate experience. Through this company, a researcher accompanies clients throughout their journey to places where their ancestors lived, attended school, worked and worshipped. Its luxury offerings can even include travel by private jet and a chauffeur-driven car. 

Sea lovers can combine the pleasures of a cruise with family exploration. Legacy Family Tree cruises offer daily genealogy classes taught by experts in the field with itineraries that range from the Caribbean and Panama Canal to Alaska and Australia. When not getting valuable information and assistance hunting down one’s family tree, passengers enjoy Legacy’s cruise ship amenities and activities, plus some surprises like an ice skating rink, miniature golf and classes in wine tasting, jewelry making and other pursuits.

Travelers who sign up for a genealogy voyage with Cruise Everything get to help plan the topics discussed by experts in the field. Passengers receive a questionnaire several months in advance, which allows speakers to cover the topics of greatest interest. Presentations include information about using the internet for research, photography and sources of helpful records. Participants may also arrange a private appointment with a presenter to get personal assistance.

Genealogy tourism offers a variety of opportunities for those seeking to combine a love of travel with the chance to add branches to the family tree.


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