Planning a roots travel trip can yield rewarding, and surprising, results. “For some people, the thrill of just being there is enough,” says Marion Hager, owner of genealogy travel company Hager’s Journeys.
Here’s how she says you can get the most out of a trip:
- Use a local tour operator. If you are going to a country, or an area of a country, where English is not widely spoken, be sure to use a reliable operator at the destination and arrange for a car and driver or guide. “This way, you will get the most from the time you spend there,” Hager says.
- Call the relatives. When you find people you believe are living relatives, try to contact them prior to your travel. “It would be fun to meet them and have them show you around and tell you what they know about their ancestry.”
- Find a local genealogist. It will be much easier to gain access to view documents and records in archives through a local genealogist. “They also can help you contact living relatives you discover,” Hager says.
- Bring printed copies of your family tree. You never know who you may connect with. “On a trip to Würzburg, Germany, we visited with a 13th-generation pretzel baker who unrolled a huge chart to show us his U.S. relatives,” Hager recalls. “He never knew he had an American family until they found him in their research, visited, and brought a copy of the family tree. He was so excited to show it to us.”
- Make appointments. Records offices, churches, cemeteries, and other locations that might keep ancestral records may not be open to the public without an appointment, may have very limited hours, or may be closed due to holidays. To avoid disappointment, Ancestry.com’s Loretto Szucs recommends making specific appointments, including the day and time you want to visit, before finalizing travel arrangements.
- Do your homework. No matter what kind of roots travel trip you book, do your homework in advance. “To appreciate the journey more, read up on the place where your ancestors grew up,” adds Szucs. “What was the culture like? What were their traditions? What may have caused them to leave their homes, loved ones, and all that was familiar to them to cross the sea to the unknown?” Plus, she says, “You don’t want to find out about a family farm still in operation after the journey is over.”
This article was adapted from the National Geographic book Journeys Home: Inspiring Stories, Plus Tips & Strategies to Find Your Family History.