Consumers are curious about the generations before them, and that has boosted interest in genealogy travel where people are delving into the past to understand how it has shaped the present. For many people, tracing their roots leads them to Europe since many Europeans migrated to America at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries to start new lives. After perusing old photographs and diaries, listening to passed-down family stories, and sourcing information on the Internet and from at-home DNA kits, a visit to Europe is the next natural step to unlock one’s family history.
Travel advisors can put together distinctive, history-minded journeys reflecting their clients’ desire to follow in the footsteps of their European ancestors. Train travel is particularly convenient because travelers can explore multiple destinations and countries with affordable ease, while also uncovering their ancestors’ heritage and more. Learn how Europe is ideal for the #HistoricallyCurious.
Most counties in Ireland have their own genealogy centers, which are an excellent resource about those who left the Emerald Isle to establish new roots elsewhere. Visitors who stop by a local pub for conversations with residents might be surprised at what other information they discover – maybe they’ll find a long-lost relative!
Ireland is packed with historical sites that tie-in with a journey to one’s past. On the West Coast in County Clare is the magnificent Cliffs of Moher where people watched from this vantage point as their loved ones left for America. Known as Ireland’s Teardrop, Fastnet Rock in County Cork was the last part of the country that many emigrants saw as they departed across the Atlantic.
The country’s museums deliver important perspective for those tracing their Irish ancestry. The National Famine Museum in County Roscommon contains documents and exhibitions that convey the desperation of the Irish Famine in the 1840s when one million people left the country. At the heart of Dublin’s EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum are the stories of shared creativity, strength and resilience among Irish emigrants who became scientists, politicians, artists and more in their new homeland. Located along the Ring of Kerry in County Kerry, the Kerry Bog Village showcases rural life from the late 1800s.
Interest in heritage travel to Germany is no surprise as many Germans left the country in the 1800s and after the World Wars of the 20th century in search of opportunity for a better life.
Tracing one’s roots may lead travelers to the BallinStadt Emigration Museum in Hamburg, known as the 'Gateway to the World' for about five million European emigrants, and Germany’s oldest museum village – Museumsdorf Cloppenburg – an open-air museum chronicling 500 years of rural life. Another popular attraction is the port city of Bremerhaven where the journey to America started for millions of Germans. Bremerhaven’s harbor sites and monuments to emigrants shed light on the coastal route taken.
While on an exploratory journey of their heritage, travelers can enrich their experience by following in the footsteps of famous individuals and visit the Levi Strauss museum in Buttemheim and Mühlhausen, hometown of August Roebling, architect of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Visitors can dig deeper into their family background at the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, Belgium. The Red Star Line shipping company transported more than two million passengers, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, to New York and Philadelphia; many were looking to escape political turmoil and economic instability. Established in the shipping company’s historic warehouses, the museum tells an intriguing story of emigration, and allows visitors to even shadow the journeys of famous emigrants, including Albert Einstein, Irving Berlin and Golda Meir.
There are many ways for people to connect to the past while exploring Poland. The Emigration Museum in Gdynia explores why people left the country and where they went, offering a revealing window into 200 years of the Polish population resettling elsewhere. A modern institution of culture, the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews represents 1,000 years of Jewish life in Polish lands. The museum’s exhibitions document Jewish history, social and political diversity, and dramatic, defining events. Poignant and transformative best describe a visit to the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, where one million people perished.
European Cultural Routes
There are 40 themed cultural routes that demonstrate European’s fascinating history and present-day diversity. One such route is the Liberation Route, which connects the main regions along the advances of the Western Allied Forces. Making this part of European history more visible to the world, the route gives visitors the chance to discover and experience the path the Allied Forces took during the final phase of the Second World War while also linking European history to the modern world. Launching this summer is a network of Liberation Route Europe Hiking Trails stretching more than 2,100 miles through eight countries with hundreds of historic places and points of interest to uncover.
For more information on safely traveling to Europe during the pandemic, visit the Re-open EU website.