Heritage Travel – How to Plan Your Ancestry Tour | Exploring the Midwest Podcast Episode 35

After you've found your ancestors and traced them back to your ‘homeland' it's natural you will want to visit.

Today we're going to talk about a few things you should do before taking a heritage tour.

Allison Singleton is Senior Librarian at The Genealogy Center and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Learn more about The Genealogy Center

tech tips for your vacation
Discovering the history of Ireland

How Much Information Do You Need to Plan a Heritage Tour?

Singleton suggests having at least a little bit of family information before taking on an ancestry tour or trip. “You really want to know where your ancestors are from,” says Singleton. “So you need to actually be able to find that ancestral village or town, or maybe even the home, and in order to do that, you have to exhaust all the resources in the United States before you can jump the pond. Otherwise you're just going to be wandering around aimlessly.”

Find everything you can from the United States first before making an overseas trip. Exhaust all of your resources locally and get as much information as you can from your local experts before you go.

Irish Family History Centre Dublin Ireland
The Irish Family History Centre in Dublin, Ireland

Finding Genealogy Experts in Other Countries

When you are planning heritage travel plan to meet with a local historian or genealogist wherever you're visiting.

“I 100% recommend always using the knowledge base of the experts when you're doing research like this,” says Singleton. “Otherwise you can get frustrated very quickly.”

One great way to find experts is by using familysearch.org. Go to their research Wiki and find the specific location you're going to. There, you should find a list of archives and libraries. This is an excellent place to start, suggests Singleton.

“Another thing that might sound crazy is to get on Facebook,” says Singleton. “Find out what research groups are in existence. There are some for every nationality. Ask what other people are using and utilize the resources people recommend.”

“Genealogy is not a solitary hobby or occupation,” says Singleton. “It's very much about communicating with and learning what you can from others.”

Pages of family history found at The Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Never take original documents on a genealogy trip

Information to Take on an Ancestry Tour

When you take that trip to another country, Singleton recommends making sure you have the immigration information with you.

She also suggests taking any documentation that gives the specific locations in the home country that you're looking for. “Sometimes these might be in different languages or give a clue that maybe you missed that a local might actually see,” says Singleton.

Instead of taking hard copies, uploading to the cloud and being able to access the information from a computer, tablet or phone is the best idea. “If you are going to take a hard copy, take a photocopy,” says Singleton. “Never take the original.”

Manning the Cannon at Cahir Castle, County Tipperary, Ireland

Tips for Avoiding Heritage Travel Disappointment

It's easy to “build up” an ancestral visit in your mind. How do you keep from being disappointed by what you do — or don't — experience?

  • Go into the trip expecting to learn about the culture and educate yourself about where your family came from.
  • Don't expect to have goosebumps and make that “soul” connection. If you do, great, but just go into it as a learning experience.
  • Don't make it all about “the find.” Make it more about experiencing the culture.

    “Going to those places [the house, the cemetery, etc.] isn't going to give you that immediate connection to your family. It's not going to change anything. It's not going to improve your relationship with those ancestors. It just is a place. It is a record experiencing the place where they're from,” says Singleton.
    “Learning more about the history and the culture — that's what's really going to connect you to your ancestors. So explore those museums, explore those locations, explore the restaurants and the food and everything else and learn about where your ancestors actually came from, as opposed to visiting the cemetery over and over again.”

    In other words, don't base your entire trip on genealogy — be sure to take time to be a tourist.

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