With the advent of services like Ancestry DNA people are discovering who they really are and where they really come from. For those who study genealogy this is a huge boost to filling in the gaps of the family tree. Travel plays a big part in this story and I have lost count of the people we have helped in their journeys overseas to check in on ancestral homes, villages and towns.
It is always interesting because usually the places people want to go to are generally off the tourist radar. Small villages in Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, Germany and the Czech republic are just a few of the places where people go to visit church yards, scan birth, marriage and death records and see if anyone in the village still carries the family name.
Now this can be tricky. This is why some people don’t like the idea of DNA at all. Imagine getting a knock on the front door and a complete stranger is standing there telling you that he or she is your fourth cousin twice removed and they have travelled across the world just to come and visit you. Mmm. Might make you think twice?
The other downside of a genealogy search overseas is that because you are probably wanting to get to very small villages or out of the way places you are probably going to be travelling independently – driving a rental car – staying in very small towns that have never heard of Sheraton Hotels. The best accommodation might be just the small village inn. This can sometimes be a challenge for us spoilt North Americans. Bedrooms in European hotels are smaller and in some of the smaller villages you might even find yourself sharing a bathroom (horror of horrors).
Remember there is a reason for this. You are not a tourist – you are a sleuth on the trail of your great great great grandfather – who was maybe a shoemaker in the Swiss Alps, or the harbour security man on a small island in the Outer Hebrides. Enjoy the challenges and enjoy the discoveries along the way. You might be obliged to eat Haggis in Scotland, Black Pudding in England or Grilled Pig’s ear in Spain. If that happens follow Anthony Bourdain’s advice – never refuse a dish prepared for you by a local. And when you are struggling to get that food down – remember – this is your ancestry – so enjoy it!