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Today, clients show a strong desire to explore new destinations, to connect with family through travel experiences and to be travelers, not tourists. Often, this means getting off the beaten path and engaging in lesser-known activities that aren’t necessarily in a guidebook. For these curious, free-spirited travelers, suggest an ancestry trip.
These trips cater to both multigenerational groups and those celebrating milestones, providing clients of all ages the opportunity to enjoy communal endeavors, learn about a shared history and participate in traditional festivals and ceremonies that get them in touch with their roots. Several tour operators offer services to research, plan and execute ancestry group trips. Below are four companies that bring people together through journeys of self-discovery around the globe.
EF Go Ahead ToursIn late 2017, EF (Education First) Go Ahead Tours, in collaboration with Ancestry.com, released Ancestry Tour packages in Ireland, Italy and Germany. These comprehensive packages include an AncestryDNA kit, a pre-trip family history review and the services of a professional genealogist during the trip, along with a local EF Go Ahead Tour guide.
“Our travelers are drawn to group travel because of the sense of community and sharing an amazing experience with like-minded people,” said Robin Hauck, director of business development and strategic partnerships at EF Go Ahead Tours. “Our ancestry tours take that sense of shared interest a step further and allow our travelers to experience a destination that has true significance to each of them.”
Clients can deepen their connection to one another and their homeland on these tours, which accommodate 15 to 28 people. For instance, on the 12-day Southern Italian Ancestry Tour: Campania to Puglia trip, guests can explore the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, tour UNESCO World Heritage Site Castel del Monte and visit the ruins of Imperial Byzantine churches.
Family Tree ToursAs of 2016, 40 million people claim to have German ancestry — and that’s just in the U.S. This makes Germany one of the most highly sought-after destinations for ancestry travel in the world. In response to this demand, Family Tree Tours offers group heritage tours and private genealogy tours in German-speaking countries.
“Ancestry travel is such an emotionally rewarding experience,” said Kathy Wurth, founder and owner of Family Tree Tours. “We help our clients walk in the footsteps of their ancestors and come full circle. Clients not only connect with their origins; they also form connections with their travel companions and create or reinforce long-lasting relationships.”
During group heritage trips, clients can attend lectures from local historians and visit archives, living history museums and community festivals. Travelers looking for more of an immersive experience can also partake in local activities, such as sailing on a three-masted ship and sampling famous Nuremberg sausages.
Heritage ToursSixty-two percent of Jewish-American adults believe that being Jewish is a matter of culture, rather than religion, according to a 2016 survey from Pew Research Center. Operator Heritage Tours, which caters to clients of Jewish heritage, helps groups create meaningful, cultural encounters through FIT trips, which combine visits to popular attractions with intimate excursions and expert guides.
“Most groups are looking to learn about their heritage through shared experiences,” said Neil Weidberg, president of Heritage Tours. “Groups want to learn about their community, and our local guides help create a narrative of what life might have been like for their ancestors long ago.”
Interested clients can choose from several locations in Southern Europe, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and parts of Africa. In Morocco, smaller groups might arrange to stay with Jewish families and share a Passover meal together or visit famous rabbi tombstones in the High Atlas Mountains. Heritage Tours has even arranged destination bar mitzvahs in parts of Spain, such as Barcelona.
Mary’s MeandersAnother famed location for group ancestry travel is Scotland — which is no surprise, as roughly 50 million people worldwide claim Scottish descent. The destination is teeming with resources and opportunities for clients interested in exploring their background. One local operator recommended by VisitScotland, the country’s official tourism board, is Mary’s Meanders.
“This type of tour would be ideal for a local history group or an extended family,” said Emma Chalmers, founder and owner of Mary’s Meanders. “Clients can join others with the same background and learn about what drove their ancestors to make such momentous decisions — and gain an understanding of the type of conditions they left behind."
To create tailor-made itineraries for ancestry tours, Mary’s Meanders offers services ranging from extensive research to thoughtfully planned excursions. Travelers should consider their goals for the trip and decide whether they want to visit their clan castle or family church; or, they can dig deeper and trace their ancestors’ roots back to small villages, country churches, old dockyards, textile mills and coal mines. Mary’s Meanders has even located specific family gravestones and arranged an authentic Jacobean banquet in a castle with full period costumes for clients.