How to Begin to Plan a Successful Ancestry Trip

This post is intended to assist you in how to begin to plan a successful Ancestry Trip.

Train station in Bodo

Wondering how to Begin to Plan a Successful Ancestry Trip?

Before planning your trip to your ancestral home, you’ll want to take stock of where you are in your journey now, figuratively speaking.

Where are you now?

I’m not the most patient person. When I begin something, I often want to complete it as quickly as possible. I’ve been advised this is referred to as “What’s next” syndrome. This is actually positive, as it moves me forward with goals and activities. However, while it’s happening it can feel quite negative and unsettling. Combined with wanting the end result to be perfect, well, let’s just say that makes things extra challenging.

I’ve learned it’s important to stop, take stock of where you are , and slow down to enjoy yourself. Slowing down also allows for a re-evaluation of processes from time to time to ensure you’re on track to achieve your ultimate goal. In this case the ultimate goal being to plan a successful Ancestry Trip. It’s normal to get distracted, or feel frustrated while doing research, especially if you end up hitting a “brick wall”. A brick wall is when you’ve not been able to find out anymore information on an individual in your research, despite your best efforts. You can feel as though you’ve exhausted your resources. Unfortunately, this also often means the familial line above that person is lost to you as well for the time being. Professional genealogists can even struggle with brick walls.

There are certainly times when starting a project, especially one we know will take time to complete, can seem daunting. We can become paralyzed and unsure how or where to begin.

Let’s assume you’re exactly where you are supposed to be. Then, let’s call that your beginning, the starting point for you.

Your experiences to date, and the steps you take leading up to your trip will be completely unique to you. There is truly no right or wrong way to approach this. Just as is the case with your DNA, your journey will be yours and yours alone.

How will you begin?

Prepare Your Mindset

I belong to multiple ancestry groups as a way to learn more about best practices for research. Through experiences, I can assure you that you are likely to find surprises as you delve into your ancestry. Our ancestors sometimes kept secrets. They were doing the best they could at the time and space in which they lived. Keep in mind that choices and options available to them were often limited. In fact, the norms of today weren’t the norms of years now long gone. I’m also fairly certain future generations will question some of the decisions we are making today.

It’s also true that the older generations didn’t always pass along information, especially regarding events which might have been perceived as negative by today’s standards. Life was endured at times, not necessarily enjoyed by our ancestors, and people didn’t talk about or share their experiences as willingly as we do today. However, their resilience and commitment to their lives makes it possible for you to be where you are now. Each of us have negative as well as positive experiences in life. These experiences make us who we are. You will uncover both negative and positives while researching your ancestors’ lives.

Sometimes, I’ll hear of people who learn they aren’t actually related to those they believed were biological relatives. To say they were shocked is a massive understatement. Again, I don’t believe people kept secrets with a intent to deceive. Rather, I accept that their intent was to protect those they cared about including themselves, living in a time we can’t ever fully comprehend. If you learn that your relatives aren’t who you thought they were in your research, you will have to decide whether you will proceed down the biological path of visiting your ancestral home, or your “adopted” path. Both are valid and possible. This choice is yours to make.

What tools will you use in your research?

Ancestry opening page – Source:

There are so many tools at your disposal to assist in your research. Many of these tools are covered in more detail in other posts. Doing DNA testing, Building a Family Tree, Online Research, Talking to relatives, Gathering photos, Visiting Churches, Museums, Libraries, and Gravesites are all part of the research you may decide to pursue. As I’ve stated, doing a DNA test was where I started. In my opinion it provides the strongest foundation in which to begin your search for ancestry origins. As some people in my ancestry groups have said, “DNA doesn’t lie, people do”. It’s a somewhat harsh way of saying that you’ll get a more accurate sense of where you inherited your DNA and in what regions of the world your ancestors lived, regardless of what secrets were kept in the past.

Determine Geographical Location

If your end result is to visit your ancestral home or homes, you will need to narrow down the geographical location for where that is. Perhaps you already have an idea of where it is you would visit. Perhaps you have no idea.

I remember the day I found the ship’s records which included my then seventeen year old grandmother’s name amongst the passengers, travelling from Oslo Norway to Canada, stating her home was Bodo. I was able to find this information by building a family tree and doing genealogical research on my family tree. For this I used . Looking at it on a map for the first time, Bodo seemed very far away.

I began to research the geographical location, in addition to trying to learn more about my grandmother. Also, I began searching what it would take to travel there. At this point is when I made a decision to go to Bodo. It wasn’t more than a couple of years later that we made the trip.

Plan your time commitment

People have lives, and in life there are priorities and other commitments.

You will find you have more success if you plan a quiet time away from distractions to do research and planning on a regular basis.

How much time do you have daily, weekly or monthly to put into this? It’s a very personal decision, but if possible, choose a regular time to dedicate to your research. Talk to your family about it. If they know that part of the reason you’re doing the research is to make the most out of a family trip to yours and their ancestral home they will be able to more easily buy in to the premise. You’ll need their understanding and support.

Set goals

Obviously, if the reason you’re dong this is to visit your ancestral home then your goal is to gather enough information and data to plan your visit.

However, you will find it helpful to set smaller goals as well. Activity based goals work best. Whether you handwrite your goals in a calendar or book, or make note of them in your iphone for tracking, capturing the goals will increase your likelihood of reaching the goals.

For example, setting a goal to visit a museum two hours away from your home in the next 10 days to learn more about your ancestors, is both measurable and achievable – two very important components in goal setting.

On the other hand, setting a goal to break through a “brick wall” is very hard to measure and achieve.

Instead of making “break through a brick wall” your goal, focus instead on a goal something to the effect of “go to the library to research the ancestor’s name in the next 2 weeks “, or “join a facebook group this week for further ideas and support on dealing with brick walls”. These goals are measurable and achievable, and may bring you a step closer to your ultimate goal.

Commit to celebrating your successes along the way

An important component to any goal setting is building in a rewards system. Your successful ancestry trip will be your ultimate reward and celebrating that should come easy once you’ve researched and planned it. You will have successes along the way as well in learning about your ancestors, your family. Learning is always it’s own reward, but you may also choose to share your knowledge with other family.

For example you could reward yourself by having a coffee with a cousin you haven’t seen in awhile (or perhaps never met before) who it turns out lives close by. Or you could try a new activity you’ve learned an ancestor once enjoyed.

Whatever small rewards you choose along the way, try to make sure you actually take a break from time to time, reassess and make sure you’re still on track.

On the train nearing the Arctic Circle

For more info, please review our other guides on ancestry travel to get the most from your ancestry trip.

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