Heritage Travel 101

One of the biggest travel trends in 2019 is heritage travel. What’s that? It’s traveling to places where your ancestors came from. Visiting places associated with your history offers a new way to connect with your family’s past.

Heritage tourism is a growing experience in America, and our findings confirm it. According to our latest poll, over 40% of folks 45 years old and older have traveled to learn more about their family’s heritage. Additionally, 52% of respondents are planning an ancestry trip. Check out our tips on how you can get connected through ancestry travel, too!


Know Your Roots

There are three main ways to find your roots. First, take a DNA test from companies like 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or HomeDNA. How does DNA testing work? You collect your salvia for the testing kit, then mail it back to the company. Within for 3-5 weeks, you’ll get full results.

Another way you can figure out your heritage is going on sites like Ancestry.com or FamilySearch. By typing in your name, you might find that other family members have already started a family tree.

Finally, you can always ask your relatives! If you can connect with older members, even better. They might have stories to tell about why the family moved in the first place. Maybe it was moving for opportunity or a job, or maybe it was turmoil, famine, and warfare. You might be surprised to realize how much the American dream meant to them.


Build Out Your Travel Plans

Most folks aren’t usually from only one place. When planning your ancestry travel, build out a list of cities or countries you want to visit first and when. Austria may be gorgeous in winter, but you may want to skip Russia until late spring or summer.


Eat Authentic Dishes

Food brings us all closer together. If you really want to experience the life your ancestors used to lead, order up local dishes. Be wary of anything with a modern twist or dishes that have become popularized by tourists. Try to find mom and pop shops that are selling meals like they tasted in the old days.

For instance, hard shell tacos, fajitas, and gigantic burritos weren’t invented in Mexico. So if you’re on a genealogy trip down there, try red pork pozole (a type of soup), chiles en nogada (poblano chilis filled with meat and topped with cream sauce), or flautas (rolled fried tacos).


Visit Local Landmarks

One of the beauties of heritage travel is seeing a destination as your ancestors once did. Make time to visit some of the older landmarks in town, such as historic buildings, parks, or land formations. Statues or memorials around town can also lead to information about events or people your family may have known personally.

While we can’t always recreate horse and buggy rides through town, there are ways we can walk in our relatives’ footsteps. Do you have a photograph of your relatives sitting by a local lake? Find a good spot and take a pic of yourself doing the same thing. Did your great aunt go to work in the old factory? Walk through town and make a stop at the building. By placing yourself in the grooves of the past, you can appreciate the family who came before you.


Tour Regional Museums

It goes without saying that museums are a treasure mine for learning about the past. When you’re on your ancestry vacation, scout out regional or local museums. While you can find more in larger museums, local centers tend to be more focused on the day to day life of the former residents.

This can apply to specialized museums in the U.S. as well. Track down museums that focus on various eras of history, from the hopeful to heartbreaking. This includes Ellis Island and the Tenement Museum in NYC, Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston, Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.


How to Learn More

Some tours specialize in heritage travel. Many of them offer small group tours in popular origin areas like Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Most stops revolve around famous sites that played a part in history or made an impact on the local people. Depending on the tour, genealogists sometimes come along for the ride. Helpful tip: Get to know the other travelers in your group. You might just find a long lost relative!

Exploring where you came from can be the perfect vacation destination. With a little homework and an open mind, you can walk in the footsteps of the past and feel more connected to your roots.


Plan Your Heritage Trip

Header image via Taiga/Shutterstock.com

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