People travel for different reasons – leisure, entertainment, knowledge, work. That list seems so simple, but travel is rarely simple, and when you think about why people leave their homes to travel the globe it is far more personal.
And leaving your home to travel and explore your ancestral home is as personal a journey you can undertake.
Like us, more and more travellers are focusing their holidays on exploring family history and embarking on what’s called ‘heritage travel‘. It is all about combining the challenges, excitement and fun of a vacation with a history lesson.
But this isn’t the history lesson you slept through in the back of the class. This is the history lesson of you. The history lesson of those who came before you and shaped who your family is today. The history lesson that provides the opportunity to discover ancestral points of view, symbolic artifacts and all the small pieces that creates your cultural identity.
As you may be expecting planning your own heritage vacation takes a little bit of research to get the most out of your travels. Step one to planning your heritage vacation – learning about your family. To help you, here are our top three tips for starting to research your ancestry.
The best place to start is at home. Ask your parents, grandparents, and extended family about your ancestors. You might be surprised how much knowledge is available. Collecting stories, old photographs or if your lucky enough an already compiled family tree will help you on your journey to discovering your history. It is also a good to cross reference stories and facts, often oral histories end up modified over time… Game of telephone anyone??
We are both lucky to have partial family trees and strong oral histories. Gaels do love to tell a tale! As we are starting on this journey they have served as both useful starting points and as sources of misdirection.
Be Tech Savy
In this digital age there is so much ancestral knowledge that we can access online.
There are the big options like Ancestry.com or Findmypast.com, which are great places to start and organize your family tree. Ancestry usually has free trial options and useful resources to help you get started, which are free and accessible to all. Personally we love Ancestry to organize the information we are finding. As well, it has been a useful launching pad to searching government records and archives.
It has been surprising the amount of records that are available online in Canada, the United States and Britain. Many original documents have been scanned and available to be accessed for free through public archives.
For example in Canada Héritage is a government sponsored site that makes accessible online some of Canada’s most popular archival collections encompassing roughly 40 million pages of primary-source documents. Chronicling the country and its people from the 1600s to the mid-1900s.
As you are researching to plan a heritage vacation one surprising resource has been Google Books. Google Books includes an online library of out-of-print resources such as local histories and compiled genealogies. Want to know about what like was like in the town or village your ancestors lived in the 18th century? Google Books is probably the best place to find out (for free!).
At some point you will need to ask yourself – how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?
How much knowledge do you want to have for your journey?
At the moment our focus is Ireland – we do have other ancestral paths that we plan to explore including Scottish, English and French – and there is a wealth of resources available to study Irish genealogy. One resource we have found very helpful for our more in-depth study is John Grenham’s book ‘Tracing Your Irish Ancestry‘.
Of course the other option is to just go… In our case that means heading to Dublin as a starting point.
The Irish Emigration Museum (EPIC)
If “in the field research” is your preferred method and you are researching your Irish ancestry, then your first stop in Dublin should be the The Irish Emigration Museum (EPIC).
In this unique museum you will step through 20 themed galleries to discover why people left Ireland, how they influenced the world they found, and experience the connection between their descendants and Ireland today.
Located inside EPIC is the Irish Family History Centre, which is staffed by professional genealogists to help you get started on researching your family history. The Irish Family History Centre experience is the only of its kind in Ireland. The Centre introduces an exciting way for visitors to search for Irish Ancestors and discover their own unique family story while exploring Irish heritage along the way.
Visit EPIC in Dublin’s Docklands, open 7 days a week.
Directions: Just 8 minutes walk from O’Connell Bridge. Walk east from the Bridge along Eden Quay with the River Liffey on your right. Continue along Custom House Quay straight past the historic Custom House until you see an arch on the left, beside CHQ. The entrance to EPIC is beside this arch.
More details available at: www.epicchq.com
Start you planing to Dublin with Booking.com’s city guide.