Some of our favorite stories to share here on the blog are about the personal discoveries travelers have made while on tour. Travel is especially meaningful when it brings you closer to your family, and helps you connect with your heritage. That’s why we’re thrilled to have teamed up with Ancestry®, the go-to resource for people looking to explore their family story, to create a brand-new portfolio of tours. These trips to Ireland, Italy, and Germany offer travelers the unique chance to trace their roots. Go Ahead Tours President Heidi Durflinger sat down with Kyle Betit, Senior Genealogist and Research Manager at AncestryProGenealogists®, to talk about why travel plays a key role in uncovering your family story.
Heidi: Basics first—what do you do as a professional genealogist?
Kyle: Our customers tell us goals of what they’d like to find out about their families, and I do the research in original records to make discoveries, provide the proof, and share the stories of their relatives. Many people would like to find out exactly where their ancestors came from, such as the particular county, parish, and townland/town in Ireland—and many would eventually like to visit that place. We often need to do a lot of detailed research in records worldwide to find an indication of where their relatives emigrated from.
Heidi: What’s the first step travelers can take to begin discovering their family history?
Kyle: The first step is to gather information at home—talk to your relatives and look at family records. I’d say the second step is to take an AncestryDNA® test.
Heidi: All travelers going on one of these Heritage Tours will receive an AncestryDNA kit®. What will this test tell them? Kyle: The DNA results will provide travelers with two key pieces of information. The first is an estimated breakdown of their ethnicity, meaning what regions and countries of the world their ancestors came from. Second is a list of cousin matches, which includes other people who share DNA with them and have also taken the AncestryDNA® test.
Heidi: How can travelers use their DNA results to start unlocking their family story?
Kyle: In addition to an ethnicity profile, some travelers will also have Genetic Communities™, which provide a more detailed story of their recent ancestry. Genetic Communities represent groups of AncestryDNA® members who are connected because they share fairly recent common ancestors from the same region or culture. Travelers can send messages to other Ancestry® members and DNA matches to help them build their family tree. People often discover and connect with relatives they didn’t know they had! Talking to someone in another country who you just found out is a cousin is pretty amazing—it’s emotional for people.
Heidi: How is travel beneficial for people who are seeking out their heritage?
Kyle: Some of the most incredible records can only be found by traveling to the place where ancestors lived. Meeting local people and relatives—and connecting with them—is a wonderful, irreplaceable experience.
Heidi: Why should people who are interested in their heritage consider traveling to the country their ancestors are from?
Kyle: No matter how much you research online or how many records you look at, ultimately there is no replacement for going there to walk where your family walked, and see how and where they lived, worked, worshipped, and studied.
Heidi: How can travelers use their expert AncestryProGenealogist® as a resource during the tour?
Kyle: Before the trip, travelers will have a personalized review session with their AncestryProGenealogist® to discuss what they already know about their family history and what they’d like to learn. On tour, the expert will lead genealogy presentations and answer questions about how what travelers are seeing relates to their own ancestors. The AncestryProGenealogist®, along with the Tour Director, will provide historical context and bring a personal perspective to each and every destination. At a 19th-century Irish village, for example, travelers could learn what their relatives may have experienced during their lifetime there.
These trips will encourage people to dig deeper using various records, techniques, and insights. Travelers will come home not only with a deeper connection to their family’s past, but also with knowledge of how they can continue to learn more about their heritage.
Heidi: Why do you think Go Ahead and Ancestry® make a great pair?
Kyle: We’re both interested in taking people on meaningful, life-changing journeys. Both of our companies share a common interest in inspiring relationships that are lifelong, with travel and genealogy respectively. We want to help others understand the context, history, and stories below the surface.
Interested in tracing your heritage while traveling? Find your family’s story in Ireland, Italy, Germany, or Scotland on one of our Heritage Tours.