Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland

If you’ve ever had a desire to visit the lands where your ancestors originated, you’re not alone. A popular and growing segment of travelers is pursing Ancestry Tourism, or Genealogy Tourism. Many countries like Scotland, England and Germany are happy to oblige by helping with resources and itineraries that allow you to dig deep into your family heritage.

Uncovering your ancestral roots, in the country where they originated brings a depth of understanding about your family that you can glean nowhere else. You can uncover the lineage of your family tree, visit the birth places of your ancestors and even meet distant family members who may still be living in the region.

Ancestry Tourism is big business which is why many countries are happy to help provide free resources and spotlight museums and heritage centers for you to experience during your visit.

A 2013 Ancestral Audit by Visit Scotland (one of the most frequented countries by ancestral tourists) recorded an estimated 213,000 ancestry-specific visitors last year. That also meant and additional £101 million (or, $172.3 million USD) added to the economy. The audit shows that 78% of U.S. citizens who visit for this reason are likely to recommend travel to Scotland to friends and family. So, the impact of current and potential travel to the region is why countries like Scotland are welcoming ancestral tourists.


Here’s tips on how to embark on ancestry travel:

  • Do your homework – This type of travel requires some research so you can arrive at your destination prepared. Narrow your research to focus on just one person or family unit and make a list of the data you will need to collect before you go. Research centers like the National Archives and Records Administration and the US Gen Web  are good places to start.
  • Planning – Decide what country or countries you will visit on your trip. Determine how much time you will need to conduct research at museums and repositories, visit physical locations and meet with family members in the area. Keep in mind, this kind of travel requires a lot of flexibility and time. If it is only a short trip—narrow your scope. If you have several weeks available, then you can tackle more. Research to see if the country you are visiting has assistance or resources specifically for ancestry tourism. This will help you a lot. Start with the central visitor’s website for that country.
  • Packing –You are not going to travel with volumes of research materials so packing smart is essential on this type of trip: put as many documents as possible into a laptop for travel convenience; create an itinerary with your research goals; make a list of research stops including contact information and hours; Compile family group sheets, and required charts and forms for locations you will visit; bring back-up storage for research and photos; take pencils with erasers (pens are prohibited in many research facilities) and notepads only (loose papers are prohibited in many facilities); change for copy machines and your camera.
  • Make travel plans – Once you decide where you need to visit and for how long, set the trip in motion by making your travel arrangements.
  • Create memories – You are embarking on an important journey to fill in the blanks of your ancestry that will be preserved forever. Take a journal with you to record your personal thoughts and experiences along the way. Take photos of locations, headstones of relatives, cities and villages where your ancestors lived. Keep careful records of contacts and sources of information. This will be a trip unlike any other you will ever experience, so take it all in one discovery at a time!