Back to the Homeland

By Lisa A. Alzo Premium

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Thanks to the Internet, you can make a virtual visit to pretty much any country in the world. But nothing beats a real trip back to your ancestral homeland to do hands-on research, or to see where your ancestors walked.  But before you pack your bags, here are five tasks you can do in advance to ensure a smooth journey.

1. Make a list of must-dos. Since you’ll have a limited amount of time, plan your itinerary ahead. Prioritize places you want see: churches and cemeteries, the mayor’s office or town hall, landmarks, and archives and repositories.  

2. Know where you’re going. Google the village beforehand to find key contacts, such as the mayor or priest, and e-mail or write letters to several months in advance. They’ll likely to be more willing to help you connect with family or find records. Try checking foreign telephone directories such as or for surnames to see if you still have living kin in the area.

3. Enlist the help of professionals. If it’s your first visit, you may need some help with details of booking your trip. Look for companies that specialize in European tours. Check with AAA, the Destination Marketing Association International Directory, or Genealogy Tour and Travel Services.  See the March 2009 Family Tree Magazine for budget travel tips.

4. Review your research. Build a historical timeline and create a “to-do” list for your research tasks. Prioritize them in order of most important. Bring along as much of your genealogical as research you can (you could store key information on your cell phone, laptop or USB drive).

5. Investigate the archives. Before you leave home, search the archive or repository’s online catalog and familiarize yourself with policies and procedures. If permission is required to visit an archive, plan to obtain it in advance.