Trend Alert: Is Heritage Travel The Next Big Thing?
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Jim Ingram and his wife, Barbara Ingram, have traveled from Washington to Kentucky in search of their family history. “Our next quest is Virginia, there is an old Ingram farm out there that we've been told has been standing since the 1700s,” said Jim. “We've been plotting out a trip there for years, have just never made it.”
For that trip, they might be interested in using a travel agent who actually specializes in genealogy travel. Marion Hager, owner of Hager’s Journeys (a Virtuoso member agency) in Scottsdale, Arizona got into this niche travel business when she went to her own professional genealogist and had her trace the Irish and Swedish parts of her family.
“Tracing our ancestors gives us a connection to history and traditions, especially those practiced in our own families,” said Hager, who says that planning a genealogy trip can be quite complicated. “Not only from the itinerary planning/sequencing standpoint, but from connecting with the in-country genealogists who have access to the sites and records you would want to look at. People will get the best quality experience by working with a travel advisor who will help them through all facets of the trip – including helping to establish contacts with genealogists in their home countries.”
Kathy Wurth of Family Tree Tours says that an increased amount of travelers are embarking on trips to find out where their family tree is planted. “A lot has to do with baby boomers retiring and having time to look this stuff up,” she says. “The commercials and television shows on genealogy have also sparked a little interest. Finally, the internet has also helped. When I was growing up, you wrote letters and waited a month for someone you hoped would be related to you to respond. Now you hear right away.”
Once you know what town a family member was born in, consider planning your trip way in advance. “It takes a lot of planning on your end and on ours,” she says. “But you definitely want to start with verifying that you have the right town.”
Before you schedule a trip to trace your own family roots, do some basic research and find out what town you are actually from. “You can’t visit a place if you don’t know where you’re from,” she said. “From there we can get information about the town, verify that you came from there and set up independent tours with people for you to meet and places for you to see.”
If you do not want to go on your own, you can join a group tour and visit specific places with others interested in your same area. “We arrange lectures by local historians so you can learn about the area you are visiting and try to visit museums. We also do fun things too.”
To get started before your big trip, Hager recommends a few pieces of reference material: “Who Do You Think You Are by Megan Smolenyak – it gives you a step-by-step process. Also Hey America, Your Roots Are Showing by Megan Smolenyak, which tells stories of the various studies Megan has done. There is also a good reference section in the National Geographic book Journeys Home."
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