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Traveler Story: Uncovering Irish roots on a Heritage Tour

Mar 01, 2018 by Courtney Keller

Every travel experience is full of personal discoveries. When a trip helps you connect with your family story, it becomes even more meaningful. Mary has always had an interest in her lineage, so when she found out about the opportunity to join an Irish Heritage Tour, it was a perfect way for her to trace her roots. Here, she shares her experience joining her first group trip and connecting with her roots.

Mary at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

Mary’s heritage has always been something that’s important to her. With Irish heritage on both sides of her family, the Emerald Isle was one of her bucket list trips. “For a long time I’ve been on working on my family tree,” she explained. “When I got the email last year about the trip—right away I knew I had to do it!” She took the next step in her family research journey and signed up to explore the country her ancestors came from.

Before setting out, Mary received her AncestryDNA® kit and spoke with an AncestryProGenealogists® expert at her pre-trip family history review. During this 5-hour consulting session, she talked through her background and goals with Kyle, the professional genealogist specializing in Irish research who would join her on tour. “Having Kyle, our AncestryProGenealogist®, there was amazing,” she shared. “Kyle was very accommodating—he was there every day, every place we went. He gave us personal time and invited us to ask questions. It made it an even deeper experience.”

Kylemore Abbey in Ireland

This Irish adventure was her first time joining a group trip, and Mary appreciated the ease of everything being included and arranged. “I am such an advocate of guided tours,” she said. “You get so much more than trying to explore on your own.” She also discovered how much she loved being part of a community of travelers. “Everybody warmed up to each other quickly. I even met some people at the airport who were carrying their Go Ahead Tours bags,” she recalled. “That was great—we immediately clicked.” As they made their way through Ireland, everyone in her group mingled with one another as they explored, shopped, and enjoyed meals together.

Mary and her group in Ireland

One element that made the travel experience even better? The common interest in their Irish genealogy that all the travelers shared. As part of the itinerary, they spent time visiting libraries, learning from local genealogists, and researching periodicals in the archives. The Tour Director and AncestryProGenealogist® worked together beautifully to give context to the culture. “Kyle would add in some genealogy perspective for places we were going to go, sharing his knowledge and expertise,” Mary shared.

One especially interesting discovery was that Mary might have relatives in common with her Tour Director, Ciaran. When she first spoke with Kyle and gave him her background, he noticed right away that the two shared an uncommon name. “Come to find out, both of our families are from County Louth, north of Dublin,” she shared. “Now we’re waiting on the results of Ciaran’s DNA test to see if he’s a cousin,” Mary said. “I hope he is, that would be a really fun find!”

Cliffs of Moher

Ireland holds a special place in Mary’s heart after this trip. It’s somewhere she’d love to return to in order to continue her ancestral research. Along with an appreciation for the beautiful shades of green and warm Irish welcome she received from locals she met along the way, she felt a deep connection to the place her ancestors came from. “Looking around at your surroundings, seeing the old castles and the landscapes, it just hits you: this is where your roots are from! Being able to get out and see it in comfort—and hear the stories—that was wonderful.”

Interested in finding your family story through travel? Take a look at our portfolio of Heritage Tours.

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About the author | Courtney Keller
A lover of travel since studying in France, Courtney strives to inspire others to get out and see the world. When she’s not writing, she’s trying new restaurants, reading, doing yoga, baking, walking her rescue pup, or planning her next trip.

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