10 Incredible Tours Where You Can Trace Your Ancestry

DNA test kits have made it easy to trace your roots. Now travelers can dig into their personal past by sailing the QE2 to find their English origins or by joining ancestral celebrations in Africa among other incredible journeys.

By: Lynn Coulter and

Photo By: Cunard.com

Photo By: Henderson Travel

Photo By: James Derheim, European Focus Private Tours

Photo By: EF Go Ahead Tours

Photo By: My China Roots

Photo By: GIL Travel Group/Kenes Tours

Photo By: EF Go Ahead Tours

Photo By: Family Tree Tours

Photo By: EF Go Ahead Tours

Photo By: EF Go Ahead Tours

Sail Into History

"DNA tourism" is hot now that it's easier than ever to find your ancestral roots. This August, sail back to your English origins on Cunard’s Journey of Genealogy. You won’t board the Mayflower, as pictured here; instead you’ll travel on the luxurious Queen Mary 2 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims' arrival in the New World. Ancestry experts from AncestryProGenealogists will be along to discuss the original voyage and its passengers. This seven-night trip, which boards in Southampton, England and disembarks in New York City, will let you trace your family tree, attend ancestry-themed workshops and learn how your DNA connects you to the global community.

Explore Your African Ancestry

Henderson Travel Service, says company president Gaynelle S. Henderson, “literally pioneered African tourism.” In 1957, Henderson’s mother chartered a plane from Paris to take a group to celebrate Ghana’s independence and Kwame Nkrumah's inauguration as Africa’s first black president. Since then, she says, “We have received many awards and honors from different African Heads of State, African Travel Associations, hotels and airlines.” While the company still promotes heritage travel to Africa, with trips like the Ghana Cultural Tour with Special Akwasidae Festival and a Black History Month Tour to Senegal and the Gambia, it also offers trips to Asia, Cuba and beyond. Shown here: African Ashanti kings, carried on pallets, arrive at a ceremony honoring Henderson's mother.

Book a Bespoke Tour

Design your own genealogy tour — right down to where you dine — with European Focus Private Tours. Owner and guide James Derheim offers tours for small family groups up to 10; you choose your companions, so you don’t have to travel with strangers. Use the form on his website to indicate your budget and preferences, and he’ll send you a draft itinerary and quote for a genealogy or other custom tour. He or his guides will contact local pastors, historian and archivists and scout your ancestral town in advance, if possible. Add tourist attractions, if you wish. Shown here: a village in Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds, England.

Explore the Past in Sicily

From Palermo to Taormina, explore your origins on an 11-day Sicilian Heritage Tour in conjunction with AncestryProGeneaologists. You'll get a review of your family's history prior to departing as well as special genealogy sessions during the trip. Highlights include guided tours of cathedrals in Palermo and Monreale, a visit to Greek ruins in Agrigento and a farm stay in the Enna region. Travelers can sample traditional Sicilian dishes and take cooking lessons while in Siracusa; they continue to the Taormina region for another traditional meal and sightseeing. The trip wraps up with a presentation from an expert genealogist. Shown here: Sicily's Noto Cathedral.

Uncover Your Chinese Roots

Jennifer Dalgleish, shown here with relatives at the historic Chinese residence of the late revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen, inherited her grandfather’s diary after his death. It revealed he'd founded the Trinidad branch of a powerful secret society that raised funds for Sun Yat-Sen, known today as the father of modern China. My China Roots, which specializes in Chinese genealogy, offers research and personalized trips to help descendants like Dalgleish trace their roots back to their ancestral villages. Ask about tailored itineraries, expert guides, DIY online research tools, custom family websites and many other services.

Uncover Your Jewish Heritage

GIL Travel Group offers guided excursions that focus on various interests. Jewish Heritage Tours are offered around the world; their Volunteer for Israel Tours are in partnership with Volunteers for Israel.

In Israel, the tour visits Jerusalem’s Old City and New City, the Western Wall, the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center and other notable locations. Here, travelers work alongside archaeology professionals and Israeli students in a program that mixes volunteer service with opportunities to explore and tour; The site is an otherwise closed archeological dig. Other types of tours are available to Japan, Europe, North Africa, the Americas and more.

Discover Your Irish Origins

The 11-day Irish Heritage Tour takes visitors through Dublin, Cork, County Kerry and Galway. After sightseeing in Dublin, browse newspapers, photographs and other genealogical materials at the National Library of Ireland. As you continue, you'll tour the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Irish Emigrant Experience. Other tour highlights include the Cobh Heritage Centre, the Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park and EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum. This 11-day trip is a collaboration between EF Go Ahead Tours and AncestryProGenealogists.

Visit Your Ancestral Village

While Family Tree Tours specializes in German ancestry, the company also hosts privately escorted, group or independent tours to Ireland, Italy and England, and can put you in touch with heritage travel contacts in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Tour participants can search for records in local archives, visit living history museums and talk to local researchers. Ask about arranging to meet with residents of your ancestral hometown who may be able to open a closed church, show you around the area and even help them locate relatives you didn't know you had.

Search Through Scotland

Before you depart for EF Go Ahead Tour's Scottish Ancestry Tour, an expert from AncestryProGeneaologists will review your family history. You'll begin the trip in Edinburgh with stops at iconic Edinburgh Castle, two World Heritage sites and the ScotlandsPeople Centre, the country’s official government resource for ancestry research. Free time is built into the itinerary so you can do additional research or add a side excursion. Then it’s on to Perthshire, the Highland Folk Museum and Clan Cameron Museum in the Scottish Highlands. You can take a self-guided tour of the Culloden Battlefield before heading to Inverness to meet with ancestry research specialists at the Highland Archive Center. This 11-day trip also includes a visit to Glasgow, where an AncestryPro Genealogist will give you a summary of your Scottish heritage information.

Research in Germany

The German Heritage Tour, offered by EF Go Ahead Tours and AncestryProGenealogists, is a 12-day excursion that includes an AncestryDNA kit, special genealogy sessions and more. Travelers start in Hamburg on a guided tour of the BallinStadt Emigration Museum and then head to Cologne's German Emigration Center, where materials document over three centuries of German migration history. A Rhine River cruise continues to the Hessenpark Open Air Museum and its exhibits of German village life over the past five centuries. Among other stops, the tour includes Heidelberg, Nuremberg, the Catholic archives in Wuerzburg and Munich. Shown here: The Glockenspiel in Munich.

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