I met a couple last night who, upon the discovering the names and vital information for their ancestors in England, took a summer vacation to the actual parish from whence the records came. They visited the church that had held the records for centuries. They walked the cobbled streets that had likely felt the soles of their ancestors almost every day for the length of their mortal life. They insisted that this experience had done more for their understanding of their forebears than any record ever could. This got me thinking about the usefulness of family history tourism.
There seem to be a lot of things we can get out of visiting places that we just can’t get from reading their vital dates. A few summers ago, I took my family to Hawaii to the North Shore that had been home to my family since the 1800s. The people I met all had something to say about my forebears. I walked in the place where my grandparents had been married. We drove past the sugar factory my grandfather built and managed. In the air, the trees, and in the water, I seemed to feel a kinship.
I had heard all of these stories before, but being in the actual places made it real for me. Every place I went seemed to drive home the fact that my ancestors were real people, with real lives full of events large and small.
So, what do you think? Is it worth the plane ticket to draw closer to your roots? Can you get that feeling of kinship in any other way?