Genealogy Travel to Italy in the Footsteps of Your Ancestors

genealogy toursWhile assisting clients during my long career as a driver and tour operator, I have encountered so many different people, customs, and cultures. Some people travel for business, others for relaxation and leisure, some for religious purposes, and others because of their thirst for knowledge. However, there is one more niche category of travelers I have come across that have been some of my favorite clients, those coming to Italy to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. This is a category we could call genealogy tourism or roots tourism, when people travel to the places where their ancestors lived and perhaps even meet distant relatives.

 

Italian immigration to the Americas

The reason why Italy and Europe are important destinations for genealogy tourism is that, between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, millions of people emigrated from Europe to the Americas. Some of the earliest of them headed to South America and then later to North America, including to the USA and Canada.

History books tell us that many of these people were impoverished Italians coming from the poorest areas of Italy, especially from the far south and central areas of Italy. The majority moved to New York, crossing the Atlantic Ocean on steamers on exhausting trips lasting between 1 and 2 months. Before arriving to mainland American, these desperate people disembarked on Ellis Island near the famous Statue of Liberty. Once they arrived, they underwent medical checkups to make sure that they were not sick and then were interviewed by customs officers to get the documents they would need to proceed freely to the Big Apple.

 

Italian-American heritage

This was a very common story among the millions of Italian immigrants who reached American soil hoping to restart their lives and build a future for their children. More than a hundred years later, the US is now full of people with Italian blood or an Italian last name. Many people with Italian heritage know very little about where their family came from originally and their greatest dream is to go back to their home country and find where their great-great grandparents lived, where they got married or even where they are buried.

 

My personal experiences with Italian genealogy tourism

genealogical tree italian toursI have had several experiences as a private driver for Italian-American families that gave me a view into the world of genealogy travel.  The people I took around Italy not only enjoyed a magical vacation in Italy but also spent time visiting the places of their roots such as small cities in the hills outside or Rome, a town high up in the mountains of Abruzzo, a fishing village on the coast near Naples or a family-owned farm in Calabria. In these cases, I was able to assist them in communicating with the locals and in one case, I even took the family to the local municipality office to search in the archives for long-lost family members.

One situation stands out in my mind more than the others; taking a family into a church in their ancestral town in Italy to ask the parish priest for permission to check the church files going back centuries. It is possible to find many documents in the churches because they issued certificates for births, baptisms, marriages and deaths of all their community members. The most joyful moment came when they found a relative and got to meet them in person.

Another time the mayor of a small town in the heart of Ciociaria, a region not far from Rome, invited us to an impromptu party to welcome my clients. And yet another time, we were in the mountains next to the Abruzzo Natural Park and got the chance to meet some of my client’s relatives and ended up being offered a sumptuous feast organized last minute with tables filled with all the best local foods and the participation of half of the small village.

 

Have a genealogy expert find your roots

These are just a few examples of what can happen when you follow in your ancestors’ footsteps. While impromptu meetings are great, we are now able to offer our clients a genealogy search done ahead of time by an expert genealogist. With just a few pieces of information about your background, the genealogist can help create your Italian family tree and find your ancestors and possibly living relatives.

 

Let us plan your genealogy trip to Italy

Once the genealogist has created your family tree, we will then create a wonderful Italian vacation for you and your family, taking you to all the places you are interested in visiting and hopefully you can even meet a cousin or at least someone with your same last name. The trip will be planned around where your family has its roots in Italy, so get in touch with us today so we can get started on your genealogy journey in Italy.

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