For many people, knowing where their families came from and what their lives looked like generations back is part of knowing who they are. A person's genealogy might begin with a simple tree going back to one's grandparents but can grow into something truly monumental. With the help of DNA tests and linked digital family trees, it's not surprising to know that one's family is double the size they once thought it was.

As generations grow and evolve, it's fascinating to trace back one's lineage to a potential place of family origin. Wherever it is in the world one might find they come from, planning a trip to such a location is exciting and, in a way, affirming.

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For those planning an ancestry trip, here's a guide to making it memorable and historic.

First Steps To Planning An Ancestry Trip

With all the technology today that helps people determine where they came from, as well as who they're related to, the first steps are easy to figure out. Sites such as Ancestry and 23andme are helping people trace back their ancestry through DNA tests every day, which is really the only surefire way to know where one's family came from.

These DNA tests offer a full breakdown of:

  • Regions of origin
  • The percentage of one's ethnicity
  • Matches with others who share DNA
  • The origins shared with family members
  • Additional hints about historic documents
  • Traits shared with people from a certain region

All of these things can help to shape an ancestry trip and also to determine where one should go. If a person receives their results and discovers that 40% or more of their ethnicity is from Northern Italy, then this is a pretty good place to start. If they have 15% of their ethnicity from Malta, then perhaps this is another stop to add to the trip - thus, the planning from place to place can begin.

Ancestry DNA tests range in price but most are around $100, and take no more than several minutes to complete and send to the lab.

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Consider The Goals And Outcome Of Such A Trip

The goals of an ancestry trip are not always the same from person to person. For some, it might start out as a simple quest for knowledge in regard to one's two-times-great grandmother's hometown. For others, it could be more complex, such as searching through town or city files in order to find addresses, places of work, etc. These details are the difference between taking an open-minded trip vs. taking one with the intent to uncover specific bits of information.

Aside from ancestry websites, these are some great resources from which to find one's genealogy:

  • Professional genealogists, who have access to records in-depth
  • Town or city halls, which will have access to house and business records
  • Historic websites featuring ship passage logs or other travel logs
  • Wikipedia, which can provide detailed history about a time when one's ancestors lived

Plan The Trip Step-By-Step, Including Which Stops To Make

If the plan is to visit the city or town hall, it's best to plan multiple days of research. Geneology is fascinating but it can also burn a person out easily, especially sorting through so many details that can also be in unfamiliar languages (more on that later). Additionally, one should plan to visit the local library in the city or town they know one's family is from - this can often give way to general background information.

Consider Taking Some Language Courses

Many people find that their ancestor's birth, marriage, or legal documents are in another language. It can be frustrating trying to decipher something that a) might be in script handwriting that's fancier than what we're used to today and b) is in a completely different language. It might be helpful to consider downloading a language-learning app or signing up for a few language classes just to have a basic grasp of one's ancestor's first language. After all, this was once the language spoken by a family member - learning it will be rewarding in more ways than one!

Be comfortable with not having all the answers

Sometimes, people set out on trips with the expectation of finding out everything they can about their ancestors. This is not always the case, as it sometimes takes many trips and multiple routes of communication in order to find ties to one's family members that span generations back. It's important to remember that despite what one may learn or not learn, what matters is the actual 'going' aspect of it all. Even if major discoveries are not found regarding where one lived, worked, grew up, got married, etc., the chance is still there that one is literally walking in the footsteps of their ancestors.

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