What do you wonder about when you think of your ancestors and the places where they lived? Exploring your family history on family heritage travel, you can discover the remarkable lives and achievements of those who came before you. By delving into the stories, traditions, and cultural practices of your ancestors, you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your place in the world. Family heritage trips can inspire you with awe as they grow your perspective on who you are and how God has worked in your family’s history.
Like many people, I have a diverse family heritage that includes ancestors from a variety of nations. But most of my heritage is from a few nations: Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, England, and Scotland. I’m grateful to have been able to visit all of those countries, soaking up a sense of place in each one to try to connect with my ancestors’ experiences. Before visiting each place, I researched the regions where my ancestors lived and delved deeply into the history of each location. Then, once I arrived in person, I took guided tours to learn even more. I’ve felt a strong sense of spiritual connection to my ancestors in some of the locations. For example, I worshiped one Sunday morning in Glasgow Cathedral, which has been an active church ever since it was consecrated in the 1100s. I have many ancestors from the Glasgow area, so some of them likely worshiped at the cathedral over the centuries. As I was singing praises to God together with the congregation that Sunday, I felt a strong sense of connection to other people who had worshiped there in the past. The music resounded throughout the cathedral with its massive stone walls, and light poured through the colorful stained-glass windows. I got the sense that I was standing where some family members had stood long ago, praising our eternal God. That opportunity to worship at the same place they had filled me with awe.
Where did your ancestors live? If you don’t know your family history very well yet, start researching it. You can piece together bits of information and stories from different sources. Consider taking a DNA test for a thorough mapping of where your ancestors came from around the world. Research information online. Ask your elderly relatives to share their memories of family members. Look at family photos and read family documents like saved letters. With each discovery, you can get a wondrous a glimpse into the lives of those who lived before you and the world in which they lived.
Exploring your family heritage can also give you a new perspective on you own life. As you learn about the challenges and triumphs of your ancestors, you may begin to see your own struggles and accomplishments in a different light. You can gain a newfound appreciation for the resilience and strength of your family members, and find inspiration in their stories of perseverance and determination. Whatever you discover, each new piece of information can fill you with a sense of wonder at the lives and experiences of those who came before you.
After you’ve learned more about your heritage, plan trips to key places in your family’s history. Comedian Danny Kaye once remarked, “To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” By learning about the beliefs and traditions of your ancestors, you can deepen your understanding and appreciation of the cultures from which you come. You may find commonalities with other members of your family, or with people from different parts of the world who share similar cultural backgrounds.
The blessings of family heritage travel don’t end when the trips do. For the rest of your life, you can make connections between your trip experiences and your family life today. You can also feel connected to your ancestors when you worship the God who created you all. As Deuteronomy 1:11 says, “May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!”
Each family heritage trip can be a powerfully transformative experience. You may feel a sense of wonder at the remarkable lives of those who came before you, and a newfound appreciation for the cultural traditions and practices that have been passed down to you through generations. Learn more about the connections between travel and wonder in Wake Up to Wonder. Exploring your family heritage can be a deeply awe-inspiring journey!