Europe & Britain | _

Tracing your heritage? These are the most visited countries for tracing your family history

Tracing your family history is one of the most popular travel trends right now. With advancements in genetic technology, more people are inspired to get DNA tests and track their family history around the world. And many popular heritage destinations are embracing the movement. 

Countries with a history of mass emigration, such as Italy, Germany, Ireland, England, and Scotland, are encouraging people to reconnect with their heritage. They’re improving records, archives and parish registers, and opening genealogy resources, museums and exhibits. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to travelling back in time. And it’s one of the most meaningful ways to explore the world and discover your family’s place in history. We take a look at the most visited countries for tracing your family history and how you can get back to your roots on your next trip. 

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castle lake mountains Britain


From the convicts sent to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries to the emigrants who sailed to the US and Canada in the 19th century, there are millions of descendants from England, Scotland, and Wales around the world. The Scottish tourism board found that 50 million people have Scottish heritage and at least 10 million of them are planning to visit Scotland to trace their family history. Meanwhile, a whopping 23% of long-haul travellers were visiting Scotland to explore their Scottish heritage. The country is encouraging descendants of emigrants to get back to their roots, calling 2009 the ‘Year of Homecoming’ and 2017 the ‘Year of History, Heritage, and Archaeology’. You can find your clan and follow your Scottish heritage all the way back to the Neolithic era. 

Tracing your family history in Britain with Trafalgar

You can track your British heritage on our Best of Britain trip. Discover the UK’s historic towns and cities like Cardiff, Edinburgh, Bath, York, and Stratford-upon-Avon. Journey through the awe-inspiring Scottish Highlands and follow the path of the pilgrims who sailed from Plymouth to the US. You can even enjoy lunch with the Dyer family on their farm in Somerset. The Dyers hail from the old farming families in the area. You’ll hear their stories and even see the ancient manor mentioned in the Domesday book of 1085.

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rolling green mountains Ireland


Ireland has long been one of the most visited countries for tracing your heritage. Irish people have been migrating since the Middle Ages, and around 10 million people have emigrated from Ireland since the 1700s. That’s double the current population of Ireland. The Great Famine, which lasted from 1845 to 1852, forced millions of Irish people to leave the country, with almost 2 million sailing to the United States. By 1860, almost 5 million Irish had emigrated to America, making up over a third of all immigrants.

Today, more than 30 million US residents and 70 million people worldwide claim Irish heritage – and many of them are taking trips to their forebearer’s homelands. Around 54% of American tourists who travel to Ireland say they have Irish roots, and Tourism Ireland has created a website with genealogy resources to help travellers with their research. Once you arrive, you’ll find plenty of resources like the interactive Irish Emigrant Museum in Dublin and the Cobh Heritage Centre in County Cork.

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Tracing your family history in Ireland with Trafalgar

When you embark on our Amazing Ireland trip, you’ll find many ways to reconnect with your Irish heritage. Visit the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh and the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross and hear the stories of three centuries of Irish emigrants. Meet a Local Specialist in Waterford, who will bring the area’s history (that dates back to the Vikings!) to life with stories and anecdotes. Or join the local Fulvio family for a Be My Guest dinner at their Ballyknocken Farmhouse near Dublin.

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white dome cottages Puglia Italy


Italy is one of the world’s most visited travel destinations with over 65 million tourists arriving each year – many going in search of their family history. In the 19th and 20th centuries, around 30 million Italians emigrated to many countries around the world including the United States, Australia and countries in South America and Western Europe. Today, there are an estimated 80 million descendents, known as “oriundi”, and the largest Italian communities are found in the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. 

In 2018, around 10 million of these descendants travelled to Italy to trace their family history. The Italian government is encouraging this growing trend and released a guidebook in 2019 titled, ‘Guide to Italian roots: A journey in the footsteps of your ancestors’.

Tracing your family history in Italy with Trafalgar

Ready to connect your Italian heritage? When you travel on our Italy Bellissimo tour, you’ll visit ancient landmarks from Rome and Pompeii to Venice and Florence. You’ll also meet the local Callistri family at their borgo in the Hamlet of Limonaia for a scrumptious Italian dinner. You can even see where pilgrims made the journey to Assisi and spend the night in Hotel Cenacolo, a renovated old Franciscan monastery in nearby Santa Maria degli Angeli.

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traditional German architecture town


Germans have been emigrating since the 17th century, with the first large group of German immigrants arriving in the US in the 1670s. The first mass emigration happened between 1815 and 1848 when around 600,000 Germans emigrated, with 90% making the journey to the US. By the 19th century, around 8 million Germans had emigrated to the US. 

Today, German-Americans are the largest single ethnic group in the US, with around 46 million Americans claiming German ancestry. However, many have lost their link to Germany due to anti-German sentiment during the World Wars. To revive these connections, the German National Tourist Board has created a dedicated website with information on emigration history. You can also conduct genealogy research and even create a travel itinerary to make the journey of your German relatives.

Tracing your family history in Germany with Trafalgar

You can reconnect with your German heritage on our Best of Germany tour. You’ll visit historic cities like Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Munich, and Cologne. When in Hamburg, be sure to visit the excellent BallinStadt Emigration Museum. You’ll also dive into ancient German culture and traditions. Explore the fairytale Black Forest and learn about the centuries-old craft of cuckoo clock making. Wander around the Baroque-style Old Town of Heidelberg and see the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. And hear stories of feuding lords and ladies as you enjoy lunch with locals at a 13th-century castle overlooking the Rhine river valley. 

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whitewashed buildings village Greece


The Greeks are adventurous people, travelling all over the world since ancient times. There are thriving Greek communities in Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Australia, Canada, and the United States. You’ll find vibrant Greek neighbourhoods everywhere from Melbourne to Montreal to New York City, and there are an estimated 7 million people of Greek descent around the world. Many people are now deepening their connection to their Greek roots by travelling to Greece and getting immersed in the wonderful culture.

Tracing your family history in Greece with Trafalgar

When you take our Secrets of Greece including Corfu trip, you’ll embrace the best of Greek culture and history. See the ancient wonders of Athens, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Olympia, and Delphi… Then fall in love with the stunning island landscapes of Corfu. Learn about the winemaking traditions of the Nemea region and indulge in the delicious ​​Metsovone cheese. You’ll even enjoy traditional dinner and dancing with the Karambellas family on their olive and wine farm. 

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traveler walking along seaside rampart Croatia


Croatia may be a small country with a population of around 4.4 million. But there are just as many people with Croatian heritage living outside Croatia, with numbers estimating 4 million. Waves of mass emigration occurred throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with many Croats leaving during the Croatian War for Independence. Many others left in the 1960s and 70s to find their fortunes abroad. Today, the Croatian diaspora can be found all over the world including the US, Chile, Argentina, Germany, Canada, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Tracing your family history in Croatia with Trafalgar

If you want to reconnect with your Croatian heritage, join us on our Best of Croatia and Slovenia trip. You’ll see the wonders of this region and forge a new bond with your Croatian roots. You’ll explore the dazzling Adriatic, meet a Local Specialist to uncover the history of Pula, and wander the Old Town of the fishing port of Rovinj. Visit Europe’s oldest salt pans in Ston and marvel at the beauty of the Plitvice waterfalls. See the ancient treasures of Trogir, Split and Dubrovnik and enjoy a traditional ‘Konoba’ dinner with delicious Dalmatian food, wines, and live music. 

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Ready to start tracing your heritage? Leading family history website Findmypast is offering 30% off a 1-month Ultimate Subscription when you use the code ‘TRAFALGAR’. You’ll get access to the largest set of British and Irish records online, many you won’t find elsewhere, and easy-to-use tools that help your family tree flourish. Follow this link to get 30% off your subscription and start planning your next holiday to trace your family history.

This article was created in partnership with Findmypast.

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