DNA or Heritage? What’s the difference?

Motivational travel quote overlaid on an image of classical sculptures.

DNA trips are focused on your personal history. They usually involve deep research (or a helpful cousin who already did it all). The easiest way to get started is through a company like Ancestry or MyHeritage who package your DNA test with a subscription to their huge and comprehensive database of family records. It’s pretty amazing to fill in your basic details and start seeing your family tree come to life.

I have my results, now what?

If you’re interested in finding your personal family history, start with family records. If you’re really lucky you will find that some long-lost cousin has filled in many of the details already, if not, start searching. Immigration records, census forms, military enlistment, and death records can help you narrow down where your ancestors settled.

If cultural heritage is your focus (can you really wear that shirt that says “Kiss me, I’m Irish?) look at the ethnic percentages and go from there.

Remember that exploring your history and heritage does not have to mean a trip to the other side of the world. America is a nation of immigrants, and that means nearly all of us have an ancestor that settled somewhere “first”. Historical societies are a great source of information, and your travel advisor can help set up an appointment to rummage through the records and artifacts. Wandering a forgotten cemetery looking for names can be a surprisingly pleasurable afternoon.

What does this have to do with travel?

Start small with a quick getaway to a city with a historically large immigrant population. The five major U.S. arrival ports for immigration in the 19th and 20th Centuries were: New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, but there were other ports of entry as well. Many immigrants settled in or near these areas and thriving ethnic neighborhoods still remain.

San Francisco’s Chinatown in the oldest in North America and the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. Its history began all the way back in the mid-19th century when Chinese immigrants entered the United States through the San Francisco port.

Little Tokyo in Los Angeles is home to the largest Japanese-American population in the country, Here you can find the Japanese American National Museum, historic shops along First Street where the neighborhood began, and also religious sites like the Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist temple.

Boston remains distinctly Irish in its personality and Milwaukee is known as The Most German City in America.

If you aren’t as focused on your personal history but would like to dive deeper into your cultural roots, a tour may be the best fit. These themed trips aim to give you a deeper understanding of your heritage and the right guide can help navigate language barriers and facilitate meaningful cultural interactions. Destinations with large diaspora populations in the US like Ireland, Italy, and China have seen a steady increase in visitors looking to connect with their ancestral homes, but heritage travel in general is on the rise.

There really are some top-notch packages being offered, and the list is expanding every day.

Jewish Heritage themed cruises travel from Munich to Cologne, passing through Dachau, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, and Wertheim, towns and cities renowned for their centuries-old Jewish legacy.

The Cultural Roots of South Africa Tour Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal Province, where Durban (home to the largest Indian population outside of India) is situated.

The Balmoral in Scotland has a Tartan Butler that helps guests with ancestral ties to Scotland trace their heritage by connecting them with local historians and experts before they even arrive.

Africa-focused companies are making it easier for Black Americans to research their genetic backgrounds and several airlines have expanded service to West Africa. Tourism campaigns such as Ghana’s 2019 Year of Return and local specialty operators are drawing new visitors to the continent.


Ready to plan your next trip? Contact us today!


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