Follow your family line

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.

St Columbus Church Outer Hebrides (2)

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?

stranger at the door

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!


By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. Hi Lesley!
    Wow, you are singing my song.
    I’ve been doing genealogy research for decades (started when I was 3).
    I’ve also helped people with the details of family history trip planning, by which I mean the hyper-detailed, “what to do and see once you get there” planning.
    For August I have a fun group (nothing to sell, just fun) on Facebook. If you don’t want to post this link on your blog I totally understand – I just want you to know about it. It’s all about planning your family history trip.
    To join the group people need to go to my blog and sign up. I repeat, there is nothing being sold, it’s 100% fun and totally free. It’s like a coffee club, not a class or course, we’re just a few friends comparing notes and helping each other. is the link.
    Thanks for blogging about this topic! Very dear to my heart.
    My #1 tip: Do your research at home. Once you reach your destination, your time is precious and you will want to spend it exploring those villages, with their houses, pubs, and churchyards.
    Cheers & thanks again,


    1. Great advice Jill – this is a fantastic idea because often people don’t know or have the experience to this research. As you quite rightly point out – do all your research at home. You don’t want to be paying for wifi on the road – and then enjoy your new discoveries.


  2. Lesley,
    I agree with your comments.
    We recently returned from a trip to Los and Hamra, Sweden to visit my wife’s relatives. We went with an Aunt, 2 cousins (1M, 1F) and a wife. Los is about 500 km north of Stockholm and is in the middle of nowhere. We had to rent a 9 passenger van and as my wife and I arrived a day earlier than the other 4, I ended up renting the van at the airport and was the driver. Only thing is that Sweden is very strict on drinking & driving with a 0.0% blood alcohol limit so at a big family gathering held at the house and farm where my wife’s grandmother was born, I was unable to partake of the alcohol that was being liberally served with typical Swedish summer solstice food as a pot luck lunch.
    We stayed at the only B&B in the area, Halsingegard Lundbergs, and we occupied all three rooms in the main house. My wife and I had the only bedroom with a private bath and the other 2 rooms shared a bathroom but there were no problems. The rooms were large, clean & comfortable and the breakfast was good. The per room cost was just under $C100 per night, a bargain in Sweden.
    The local relatives were very hospitable having us over for dinner 2 nights and for our last night, we made arrangements at our B&B to have a dinner prepared for us Canadians and the local couple to thank them. The female travelling cousin had been in touch with the Swedish cousin before we made travel arrangements so no surprise and for me, a non-blood relative, a great way to see the country and get a very good feel for Sweden.
    I think it is a good to have a reason to visit some area which may not be to only see all the museums, churches, art galleries and historical sights. Or as a post card said: ABC. When asked, he said it stood for Another Bloody Cathedral which his wife wanted to see.
    ps. Wifi was typically free in Sweden and Norway and readily available, except on cruise ships and similar. Visit the town’s tourist information centre or the library, both of which had free wifi if your hotel or local cafe doesn’t.


    1. Wow – that is an amazing experience you had Hugh – even though you couldn’t enjoy a drink with the relatives. The B&B sounds perfect – especially as your family basically took it over. Sharing a bathroom with family isn’t really a big problem I am sure. That was a good price as Sweden is indeed an expensive destination. Thank you for sharing. I agree about the ABC’s 🙂


  3. Hi, Lesley! I’m delighted with your blog! You are my role model! I’m planning my trip to Odessa, Ukraine at September. I’ve already booked a flight and found hotel on with affordable prices and good reviews. I heard so many interesting about this city. It’s gonna be great adventure. Do you think so?


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