All Ages

6 Vacations That Let You Trace Your Family History

See recent posts by Courtney Elko

Online archives have made finding your family’s roots so easy — and fun! But why not visit the places where your family tree first sprouted? Taking your children on a family history vacation will provide an enlightening and enriching experience for them — and you. Uncover your family’s genealogy in these family history destinations.

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

New York City

Visit the American Family Immigration History Center on Ellis Island to look through the collection of 51-million arrival records stored in the Ellis Island Archives. More than 25 million people entered the United States at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924, but the records reach all the way to 1957! Visitors will find ship passenger lists with the immigrant’s original name, age, date of arrival, and their last place of residence, along with the actual ship information as well.

The American Family Immigration History Center on Ellis Island.

After tracking your own family roots, make sure to enjoy all of the history that surrounds Ellis Island. Families can tour the museum and the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, a permanent exhibit that’s inscribed with the names of immigrants. It’s the only National Monument where an individual can honor their specific family heritage by adding the family name. Enjoy the Manhattan and New Jersey skylines and take in the awe of the Statue of Liberty during your ferry rides to and from Ellis Island.

Recommended Hotel: The Box House Hotel

Fort Wayne, Ind.

You might be surprised find your family’s history in Fort Wayne, Indiana, located about three hours from Chicago. Visitors from around the world ascend on the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne to research their family history. It is the second largest genealogy center in the world and many families make it an annual family history vacation — your family tree is always growing, after all! The center is filled with records — more than 2.8 million records online and 1.2 million physical records — all of which are free to access.

Families will find the traditional ship manifests and census records, but they will also find personal letters and diaries. The center accepts all documents from the public, including old letters from ancestors you may not know, and they will digitize them and add them to the collection. The Genealogy Center has accepted literal truckloads of documents over the years and while it may take many years to digitize all of the history, a random mention in an old letter may unlock a key to someone’s family history. Another great feature to this free family history center is that once you feel your research is complete, the Genealogy Center will be happy to bound a book for you. A second copy is kept on the shelves of the Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne for future generations to discover.

Recommended Hotel: Courtyard by Marriott Fort Wayne Downtown at Grand Wayne Convention Center

The National Archives Museum in Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C.

The National Archives Museum in Washington D.C. house millions of records for you to trace your family history. The text and microfilm records relate to genealogy, American Indians, pre-World War II military and Navy records, along with many government records. Researchers must be at least 14 years old and must follow the rules for the safe handling of the records. No pens, only pencils are permitted in the research rooms, and no purses, backpacks or briefcases are permitted.

Make sure to do your research on the National Archives research facilities prior to embarking on your family history research. Along with finding your own roots, families can see the roots of the United States government at the National Archives building. The Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence are on display here. You could easily spend hours tracing your roots and visiting the National Archives Museum during your family history vacation.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel George – A Kimpton Hotel

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Said to be the “Genealogy Capital of the World,” Salt Lake City is home to the Family History Library. Run and sponsored by Family Search, the genealogical arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the now five-floor genealogical research center and collection library began in one room in 1894. Staff and volunteers are ready to help families get started with tracing their roots at no charge.

The family-friendly center welcomes children to help in discovering their history, too. There are interactive activities for kids to get involved, as well as a children’s area that will keep kids busy while parents research their roots. Free seminars on genealogical research and one-on-one consultations are also available at the Family History Library. With records from more than 110 countries, 1.3 million rolls of microfilm, 600,000 books, periodicals and maps and billions of digital images, families are sure to find branches of their family tree on a family history vacation to Salt Lake City.

Recommended Hotel: Grand America Hotel

Family History Cruises

Take your family history vacation to the high seas! There are a variety of genealogy cruises available on various cruise lines, to various ports of call. Onboard, families will enjoy genealogy seminars and lectures on how to embark on your family history journey, or schedule some one-on-one time with genealogy experts. Celebrity cruise line offers a few voyages to the Caribbean, and Royal Caribbean International offers a genealogy program onboard select Alaska sailings.

National Library of Ireland in Dublin.

Dublin, Ireland

Located in Dublin, the National Library of Ireland houses property records, newspapers, directories and the Catholic Parish Registers, which provide direct links between generations through baptismal registers. Irish census records, dating back to 1901, are also available at the National Library, as well as non-Catholic records. A family history vacation to Dublin will surely unlock some knowledge to your Irish heritage. Plus, the city itself is full of more history to be explored!

Recommended Hotel: The Merrion Hotel


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