Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

I am going to be taking a break from writing over Christmas. Wishing you and your family (and its roots) a very merry Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thoughts About Tiny Villages and Ancestors

Lately I have been trying to put together a potential escorted tour to Ireland for people with Irish ancestry. One of the difficulties that I run into is that an escorted tour will not be able to hit all the different cities and towns that those ancestors actually came from. Instead, it has to be more of a general overview.

One way of resolving that problem is to have the escorted tour followed by personal time to explore Ireland. That way people can visit their ancestors' villages but also get a good overview of the country they lived in.

While I've been doing this, I have also been thinking about the way it seems that everyone's ancestors came from tiny villages instead of large cities. Why is that? You would think more people would have ancestors from London, for example, instead of some little village way out in the English countryside.

Maybe it is just a perception I have because people enjoy visiting those villages and trying to find their ancestral church or cemetary. It would be interesting, though, to run into someone who's ancestry comes primarily from large cities like Boston, New York, London, Berlin, Dublin, et cetera. I'm not saying I don't like working with small villages. Actually, I like it quite a bit. I'm just making a general observation.

No matter where ancestors hail from, though, their homes are worth visiting. Whether it is a small village or a large metropolis, roots travel is the way to go.

P.S. Don't forget to vote for Roots Traveler in the Family Tree 40!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vote For Roots Traveler In The Family Tree 40

Each year, Family Tree Magazine holds a vote for the 40 best genealogy blogs. The blogs are divided up into eight categories, and you vote for five blogs in each category. You can find the announcement here.

I was surprised to find out that this blog was nominated in the NEW BLOGS category! I don't know who nominated me, but I'm delighted to be among this list of so many great genealogy bloggers.

So now I need your help. Voting has already started and continues until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, December 20. You can vote as often as you want to, so use the old phrase "Vote early and vote often" as your motto.

There are a lot of great blogs in every category. DearMYRTLE has a sample ballot and links to each blog so you can check them out yourself and vote for your top 40!  Now is a great time to discover some really great genealogy blogs. Just make sure you vote for Roots Traveler in the NEW BLOGS category! Tell your genealogy-loving friends and family to vote too.

Here's the link to vote:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Collaborative Roots Travel Map

Have you done roots travel? Share it with all of the readers of this blog. I just put up a page with a map of the world on which I will document the roots travels of readers of this blog.

Genealogy is very much a collaborative effort. This map is as well.  Just advise Roots Traveler of where you have been and your travels will be put on the map. Then, if you are planning roots travel to a particular area and want some advice, you'll know who to contact!

By giving your username and travel locations, you are consenting to have your information placed on the map for everyone to see. But isn't that what genealogy is all about?! Let's see if we can blanket the map with roots travel!

There are two ways to share your information: leave it in the comments below, or email me at info [at] familyrootstravel [dot] com.

EDIT: The map can be found on here permanently so it is easy to find, but I am adding it to this post as well.

View Roots Travel in a larger map

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Ulster-Scots and Roots Travel in Northern Ireland

As a travel agent, I am always interested in learning more about different places and cultures. This coincides well with my interest in roots travel.

This week I found out more about a group of people called the Ulster Scots. These people were from the lowlands of Scotland but moved to Ulster (the settlements were called the Plantation of Ulster) in Northern Ireland. Eventually most of them moved to America. It's a fascinating story, one that highlights the history between Ireland and Great Britain.

I recommend learning more, especially if you think you might have Ulster-Scot heritage. You can find out more about the Ulster-Scots from the great article I read. Or you can go to the website for the Ulster-Scots Society of America or the very informative Ulster-Scots Agency website. The BBC even has a website devoted to the Ulster Scots at Finally, there's a great and informative website put together by the Ulster-Scots Agency on the Plantation of Ulster.

Naturally, this got me wondering whether there was a museum in Northern Ireland dedicated to these Ulster-Scots. Such a museum would be a great place to start one's roots travel. Turns out there is one: the Monreagh Ulster-Scots Irish Heritage and Education Centre in County Donegal. This museum would be a must-stop visit on anyone with Ulster-Scot heritage visiting Northern Ireland.

For a more general look at emigration from Ulster, one could also visit the Ulster American Folk Park. While this living history museum does not focus on the Ulster-Scots, it does talk about the experience of emigration from Ulster to America, so it is definitely a helpful place to get closer to your ancestor's experiences.

It never ceases to amaze me how much history there is around the world. The Ulster-Scots are a part of history I had never heard of, but I am now thinking of including it on an Irish heritage tour I am planning. Not only because I think that Northern Ireland would be a great place to travel, but also because I think it would be a great place to do roots travel for anyone with Irish or Ulster-Scot ancestry. Only by learning about all the different aspects of a country's history can one truly understand their ancestors.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Living History Museums: Museum of Welsh Life

In an earlier post, I wrote about Living History Museums and the benefit they can be to your roots travel. One of the museums I mentioned was the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans, Wales. This post will review that excellent museum.

The Museum of Welsh Life is, in my opinion, an absolute necessary stop on any Welsh roots travel itinerary. The museum reviews Welsh life at home and work over the last five hundred years. Located just west of Cardiff, the museum is on the grounds of St Fagans Castle on about 105 acres.

The museum has two parts: the galleries and the museum grounds. Both should be visited by anyone with Welsh ancestry.

The galleries include farm vehicles and implements, Welsh costumes and textiles, Welsh instruments, folk customs, and much more. It is a great overview of Welsh custom and culture that will really connect the roots traveler with their ancestors.

The highlight of a visit to the museum, though, is the museum grounds. The grounds include numerous buildings from around Wales. These buildings come from different time periods and regions and have been painstakingly reconstructed on the grounds of the museum. The visitor can see a typical pigsty, bee shelter, farmhouses, cottage, church, and even a row of iron worker's houses. These are just a few of the buildings represented.

Walking through the museum and its grounds is like gaining access to the time of your ancestors. For anyone who wants to connect with their Welsh ancestry, I definitely recommend the Museum of Welsh Life as a stop on their vacation.

Museum of Welsh Life website:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roots Travel at Thanksgiving and Christmas

Are you heading to Grandma and Grandpa's with your kids for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Then you are participating in roots travel.

Visiting family is roots travel at its simplest. It is a great time to tell stories, take time to catch up with family, and think about how your family has helped make you who you are.  Make sure you make the most of it. Take the kids out for a trip down memory lane. Drive past your old high school and tell them about when you were in school. Show them the field where you played football, and maybe play a little with them yourself.

Take some time for Grandma and Grandpa to tell some stories about when you or they were little. Make sure you have something to record the stories. Ask them about the places they grew up, or even where their parents grew up. You can then start planning your next roots travel vacation.

I wish all my readers a happy season with lots of family and friends, with a little roots travel mixed in.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Most Important Thing to Remember in Roots Travel

Put yourself in your ancestor's shoes to have a great roots travel vacation
So you want to go on a non-research roots vacation, where you would like to connect with places associated with your ancestor? That's great. Of course you want to have a great time. Luckily, there is only one thing you have to remember to make sure you have a wonderful trip. What is it?

Put yourself in your ancestor's shoes and try to see the world through their eyes.

Remembering this one thing will be the difference between developing a deep connection with your ancestral travel and merely taking another trip. Roots travel is about more than just checking off a list of tourist sites. It is even more than checking off a list of places your ancestors may have been. That's why it is so important to keep the above advice in mind.

Take a moment when you arrive at each destination to think to yourself, "This is where my ancestor came from." When you go into a church associated with your ancestor, don't just think of it as a place they went to. Sit down in a pew and think to yourself, "My ancestor may have sat in this very pew. Maybe their kids were baptized in that font over there." If your ancestors were married in the church, imagine the wedding party moving down the aisle. Become a part of that history for just a minute.

When you see a building that may have been around when your ancestor was there, don't dismiss it because you don't have a specific connection. Instead, think to yourself, "My ancestor may have seen that building every day. I wonder if she ever entered the building, or stopped and spoke to someone outside of that building." You have created a connection by placing yourself in your ancestor's shoes and seeing the world through their eyes.

Even if you know your ancestors were farmers, if there is a local castle or stately home, take some time to tour it. Imagine to yourself your ancestor, gazing up at the building wondering what went on inside. Now you, hundreds of years later, are fulfilling that dream for them.

If you try put yourself in your ancestor's shoes and see the world through their eyes, you will create connections that you hadn't even anticipated. Those connections will be powerful. It takes a bit of imagination to put yourself in their shoes. It takes a willingness to accept not just what is known, but what is possible as well. You may not know whether your ancestor sat in that specific pew or stood in front of that particular building, but it is possible. By accepting the possible, you open up the wonderful possibilities in the world of roots travel.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Atlanta Family History Expo: Talking Roots Travel

Right now I am at the Family History Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. It's been a great day of talking to people about roots travel, and hearing about some of the places they would like to travel.

It's amazing how each person has a story about their ancestors and the places they came from. I have spoken with people whose ancestors were from Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Russia, Barbados, Georgia, Jamestown, Ireland, Scotland, Vermont, Italy, Germany, and many, many other places. Those ancestors were farmers, villagers, and even nobility. One was close to a Russian czar, ad one even owned land on which a Mayan city was later found.

The one common thread that goes through all these encounters is how people want to learn more about their heritage through traveling to see these places first-hand. They feel a pull back to these destinations that can't be sourced back to an ad campaign by some tourist bureau. It's all about family, heritage, and discovering who we are by finding out who our ancestors were.

Tomorrow I get to do it again and speak to as many people as I can about roots travel. The more I do, the stronger I feel that roots travel is an absolutely essential part of genealogy. It is full of stories of people, places, and dreams. Done right, it can change the way you view yourself, your ancestors, and the world.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Living History Museums - A Great Way to Connect With Ancestors

Roots travel is about connections. Connections with place and connections with people. At living history museums, you can find both those connections in abundant supply.

A living history museum is a museum that recreates life in a certain place at a certain time period, often with museum employees in costume dress, ready to answer your questions.  If you have ancestors from that place and time period, it is one of the best ways of better understanding how those ancestors lived. You can see the way they dressed, ate, and lived, all in one museum. If there is a living history museum near your planned itinerary, you should definitely consider taking the time to visit.

Below are just a few living history museums to consider if you are in the area -

The list could go on and on - the above are just a few examples.  Next time you plan on traveling, check to see if there is a living history museum in the area. You won't regret it.

If you have a living history museum you've visited and particularly enjoyed, please let us know in the comments.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Have Online Records Made Roots Travel Obsolete?

Everyone knows the internet has changed genealogy dramatically. Millions of documents are now at the fingertips of professional and amateur genealogists the world over. Research has become much easier, and the possibility of finding that lost birth or death record has gone up exponentially. Considering all of these developments, one might argue that roots travel is no longer necessary, because the internet can take you anywhere. However, that would be wrong. Online records and the internet have not made roots travel obsolete, although they have definitely changed it.

On the internet, a person can visit a far-away place with the click of the mouse. YouTube can show you video of almost any place in the world. Information about a country is just a Google search away. Genealogical research is only as far as it takes your fingers to type or FamilySearch. Those developments are all incredibly positive in every sense of the word. But do these developments also take away some of the impetus to get out and travel to a person's roots? Is it easier to do roots travel from a chair than in person? Unfortunately, some people may think so. If you can find a picture of a gravesite on Find A Grave, why go there in person?

Because of the internet, there is less reason to travel for research reasons, but it has opened up the possibilities for a different kind of roots travel. Instead of focusing on finding a record in a county records office, today's roots traveler can focus instead on the experience of visiting relevant places. The research can (mostly) be done at home. Roots travel can be about discovering the destination instead of discovering the record.

In a way, that makes roots travel more powerful. And in spite of the ability to do so much research online, roots travel remains an important part of genealogy. Though one might not research, genealogy is ultimately about discovering the past. Copies of birth records and censuses will only get you so far. To really understand your ancestors, you must put yourself literally in their place. You must surround yourself with people that have the same accent as your ancestors had; you must walk the same streets; you must walk through the same doors and see the same buildings. Whether or not those buildings are still existing, visiting one's roots will connect you with your ancestors just as much as finding a record with their handwriting. And you get the added bonus of a vacation!

Online records have not made roots travel obsolete.  They have changed roots travel, to be sure. But taking a roots vacation or making a side trip on your vacation to visit your roots will continue to be as important to family history as it ever was--perhaps even more.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ireland, England and Scotland: The Perfect Places to Start Roots Traveling

When I was running my roots travel business, I took a survey at the California Family History Expo. The survey was an unscientific sampling of those who stopped by my booth, but one thing was certain. For international roots travel, the countries most people were interested in traveling to were Ireland, Scotland and England.

The reason is clear. These countries provide an excellent place to start visiting your family's past. They are foreign, but not too foreign. English is spoken, making it easy to communicate. It is fairly easy to get around by train or by car. Plus, each place has a robust system of bed and breakfasts to put the roots traveler close to those small villages from which ancestors always seem to come.

Not only that, but for those wishing to put their family's roots in place in history, each of these countries offers centuries of history one can see and explore, making the roots travel experience that much deeper. There are enough museums, houses, and historical buildings to develop a well-rounded vacation including roots travel and general historical travel.

So if you have English, Irish, or Scottish ancestry, consider a trip to one of those countries as your first foray into international roots travel. You won't regret it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure

When you are planning your roots travel vacation, there are so many places you could go. After all, most people have ancestors from all over the world. So how do you narrow it down?

First, look at your ancestors. Use Google Maps or Family Atlas from Roots Magic to map out where they came from, lived and died.  Then look at where you have large concentrations of ancestors.  Those places are good possibilities for your first roots travel vacation.

Take into consideration the possibility of actually seeing places related to your ancestors. Some destinations might be more modernized than others. It is important to research the area to make sure you are not disappointed when you get there.

Think about what else you might like to see in the area and whether you can incorporate your roots travel into a larger vacation.  If you have ancestors from Ireland, for example, you might want to take an escorted tour to get a feel for the country before heading off on your own. Or you might want to do a fly and drive, driving from place to place, staying in bed and breakfasts, hitting sights interesting to you as well as ancestral sites.

If you have any other genealogists in the family, ask them where you should go. They might have some good ideas to help you narrow down your choices.

Regardless of where you go, roots travel is a rewarding experience with the right planning. Make sure you plan and use these tips to get the most out of your trip.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Roots Travel - Time Travel Not Necessary

A comment on an earlier post mentioned that time travel was the best way to undertake roots travel. While time travel would certainly be useful, it is definitely not needed to have a successful roots travel vacation. Yet because with time, all things change, you will want to put some thought into your trip before you leave.

Imagine that you are out on your roots vacation, ready to discover the place your great-great-grandfather called home. But you get there and there is one tiny problem. His house--indeed his entire neighborhood--has been replaced by apartment buildings. The only way you are going to see that house of his is hopping in a time machine.

Such an experience could be such a disappointing introduction to roots travel. Don't let it happen to you. Just take a few simple steps to find out whether the place you are planning to visit will inspire rather than disappoint.

1. Look at Google Maps. If you are lucky, there might be a street level view of the property, enabling you to quickly look and see whether the house matches any photographs you might have.
2. Contact a local genealogical society or find an online forum for the place you are visiting. You never know whether there might be someone willing to head over to where you want to go, take some photographs, and email them to you.
3. Contact the local tourist bureau to find out if there are any areas of the city that have buildings dating to the time your ancestors lived there. Seeing those buildings gives a sense of place and history and might be a good alternative.
4. Before you plan a visit to a church to see where your ancestors were married or christened, contact the church beforehand to make sure you are there on a day when it is open, or that someone can be there to let you in.
5. If you plan on visiting a gravesite, make sure the cemetery is still there. Or, if it is a U.S. cemetery, head on over to the Find A Grave website to see if it is listed, or even if there is a photo of the grave you want to visit.

There are many more things you can do to make sure that you have a great roots travel vacation without needing a time machine. What ideas do you have?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Roots Travel? Part 2

Make your next family reunion a roots travel reunion!
Roots travel not only provides a powerful connection with your travels and your ancestors, it can be a great way to strengthen the links in your living family.

When several generations of a family participate in roots travel, it brings them all together with a common tie to a place and a person. It's a real place with which to connect. Grandparents, parents and children can all participate in the discovery - they can bring the past into the present. For kids and adults it can be a kind of treasure hunt.

Depending on the age of the kids, you might more of an overview of a place as a side trip from a larger vacation. Getting kids interested in their heritage might at times be difficult, but it is always worth it. Kids need to know who they are and roots travel can help inform them of that.

Roots travel does not have to only visit the places dead ancestors lived. One great roots travel itinerary to connect generations might be to go to the town the grandparent grew up in to show where they lived. It can be a chance for Grandma or Grandpa to let their stories become real for their grandkids.

Roots travel is about connections. So go out and start making connections.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Roots Travel? Part 1

The internet has made obtaining genealogical records easier than ever. With the click of a mouse, a person can find out all sorts of information about their ancestors and the places those ancestors lived. Pictures of gravestones in cemeteries around the world can be found online. You can contact people in far-off places and they can take pictures of places related to your ancestors, upload the pictures, and email them back to you.

So why roots travel? What does roots travel have to offer that can not be found online or at your local family history center?

1. Roots travel creates a powerful connection to your past. 

When you are physically looking at the church your ancestors were married in, the feeling that you get is a connection much stronger than looking at a photograph. You are standing there, where your ancestor may have stood an hundred years before. It's almost as if your ancestor is standing there beside you acting as tour guide to their past, which is also your past. The place you are seeing had a part in shaping your ancestor's life, and therefore yours as well. It is an amazing and awe-inspiring feeling.

2. Roots travel creates a powerful connection to your travels.

We all know what it is like to travel the tourist trail. We walk through the horrendous lines into overcrowded museums that funnel everyone into the gift shop at the end. But roots travel is different.

Roots travel is almost always off the tourist trail. Somehow, everyone's ancestors seem to have come from tiny villages spread across the countryside. You have to travel closer to the ground. Bed and breakfasts are a common place to stay. And when you get there, there is no audio-guide. Your genealogical research is your guide. You walk where your ancestors walked. You talk to the locals; maybe you find the local historical museum. But it's all connected to you. This place you are visiting becomes your temporary home - a new consciousness seeps into you as you realize you ARE Irish, or Scottish, or wherever it is you are visiting.

Roots travel makes connections, and those connections are powerful.They are connections that shape your feeling for your family and for your ancestors. A picture is worth a thousand words, but but being there in person? That's priceless.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Is Roots Travel?

Before devoting an entire blog to roots travel, let's discuss exactly what I mean when I talk about roots travel.

Roots travel is--simply put--traveling to a location where your ancestors or relatives lived, worked, or died. You might visit a church in which they got married or were christened. You might hunt down their gravestone. You might visit the street they lived on, the house they lived in, or the places they frequented. Maybe you just want to visit the region to get a feel for the area. It's all roots travel.

The roots you travel to see can be as close to the ground or as deep as you want. You might have an ancestor from the 1700's and you would like to see locations connected to them. Or maybe you just want to visit the town your mother or father grew up in. Your roots might grow in Ireland, Virginia, Australia, or the town next to the one where you live. It's all roots travel.

Roots travel can be for research or it can be to learn more about your heritage. It might be the sole purpose of your trip or it might be a small side trip. Maybe you'll go the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or maybe you'll go right to the source. It's all roots travel.

Roots travel might be the beginning of your genealogy research or the end. You might do a lot of planning or you might just be in the area and figure you'll take a quick look. It's all roots travel.That's the beauty of roots travel - it is what you make it.

In later posts, I'll be talking about why do roots travel and how to do roots travel. There are so many reasons and so many things to think about and do, it's going to take a lot of blog posts. After all, what is this blog? It's all about roots travel.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Welcome to Roots Traveler

Welcome to Roots Traveler, the blog for anyone interested in traveling for genealogy research or traveling to see their heritage or their roots.

If you are do genealogy, whether professionally or as a hobby, chances are you see records from places all over the world. After all, most people can trace their roots to all sorts of places.

Maybe you have dreamed of taking a research trip somewhere. Let's say your ancestors are from Ireland.  Have you ever dreamed of traveling to Ireland to do some research, even though you know you can easily get the info on the internet? Or maybe you've dreamed about seeing the house your great-grandfather left in Ireland before coming to America. Maybe your dreams are closer, and you'd like to see the battlefield where your ancestor fought in the Civil War.

This blog is about those experiences. How to have them, how to set up your own trips, things to see, travel news that might impact your travels, and resources that will help you realize your dream.

Roots Traveler is a blog by Adam Glenn, former owner of Family Roots Travel. Though I don't do Roots Travel as a business anymore, it's something I am passionate about it, so I hope you enjoy this blog and become a roots traveler yourself.