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Discovering our Roots ~ Genealogy Travel

From old aunt Ethel’s storytelling to DNA driven location accuracy

There are many reasons why we travel – to explore a new destination, to experience a different culture, or even just to escape the chill of winter and head to the warmth. But there’s another genre of travel blossoming and filling our inner need in searching out our ancestral roots.

exploring passenger lists - 1880As DNA tracing with Ancestry research or 23andMe capture our genealogical interest, we learn more and more monthly of where our descendants came from. I’m sure everyone has someone in their family who knows all the old stories and can talk about Aunt Ethel and who her kids married and who's second cousin is related this way and that. That’s the old culture of storytelling at its finest.

With the new information gleaned from DNA samples, we begin tracing our roots back a few hundred years to lands torn by war that sparked emigration – and new connections to people sharing similarity in DNA roots across the globe. What wonderful new opportunities this introduces.

Feeling connection in the steps of our ancestors

My first glimpse into the power of this connection came from a soon-to-be family member whose roots traced back to the Kintail Kintail region, Scotland - home of Eilean Donan Castleregion of the Scottish Highlands – the land of Eilean Donan and the MacKenzie & McRae clans. We were exploring Scotland 2 years ago passing through this very area on route to the Isle of Skye. We stopped, took pictures, soaking in the vibe of the area and shared them with his family. Their not having had the opportunity to visit the area for well over a decade, it was a happy gem for them to be transported back to their ancestral roots and be able to see the landscape, the villages, and a connection to lands of many generations prior.

John Labatt Scatcherd's stoneIn a similar way, on a recent trip through World War 1 battlefields of France and Belgium with our traveling partner and war historian, Grace provided stories and commentary on the war experience from the soldier’s diaries she studied for her graduate thesis. One such soldier she traced – John Labatt Scatcherd – had documented his war experience in his diaries, providing a tangible connection to WW1 battles and military routes. As we visited some of the historic battlegrounds and memorials, the last stage of our adventure was finding his grave marker at Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery in northern France. The poignancy of finding John Labatt Scatcherd’s resting place generated some heartfelt tears in Grace as his life story came to a moment of reality.

Personally, I’m in the process of exploring one line of my extended family tree branches where I’ve run into a dead end. I know my great-great Mecklenberg, northern Germany (was Prussia)grandmother was born in 1854 in Peetz, Mecklenberg, Prussia - now in the north-eastern portion of Germany. I know she, her husband and 5-year-old son (my great -grandfather) traveled to the port of Hamburg, Germany to board the steamship Hansa as they began their emigration journey to Canada. They traveled through Liverpool, England through Londonderry, Ireland and on to Quebec City, Canada before they finally ended up in the Ottawa Valley, Ontario, Canada. I have an interest to travel to this northern Germany community and see the landscape that made up this early Prussian territory and maybe find a new clue to take me back another generation or two in the branches of my family tree – an oak tree by the way, tall, strong and full of vibrant branches and leaves.

Where in the branches of your family tree would you like to visit?

We don’t only travel for the sake of following a family journey but on those adventures where these same paths merge, knowing my roots trace some of the same places I visit gives me a connection and intimacy to the hills, valleys and sights along the trail.

Have any of your travels crossed paths with your ancestral footsteps or have your travels been planned to visit some place along the branches of your family tree? How can you characterize that experience? We’d love to know. Drop a comment below and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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