Have you heard of genealogy tourism? The concept is a new one for us, but it makes a lot of sense for anyone who loves finding out more about their family tree.

This November, a unique sea voyage will take place. The iconic liner, the Queen Mary 2, will sail from Southampton to New York, a transatlantic voyage the Cunard-owned ship has made many times. This time, though, cruise passengers will be able to trace their family lineage as they do so.

It’s fitting, as many people have ancestors who sailed to New York in the decades and centuries past, searching for opportunities to improve their lives.

Family footsteps

Cunard is one of several companies at the forefront of so-called genealogy tourism, also known as roots tourism. It joins travel companies, educational institutions, tour operators and others offering holidays that are educational at the same time. Travelling in your family footsteps offers an appeal to people looking to re-connect to their past.

The November trip is called A Journey of Genealogy and is scheduled to take seven days. As you might imagine, the Queen Mary 2 is a luxurious experience. This time, it will be coupled with genealogists conducting onboard seminars and helping guests to explore their own family trees.

Once they arrive in New York, guests will also be able to book a two-night programme that includes a guided tour of the famous Ellis Island—the famous gateway to the US for more than 12 million immigrants during the years 1892 to 1964.

Personal and meaningful

John Leibowitz, senior vice-president of Cunard North America, said the company thought the voyage would be one of its more popular experiences as it was so personal and meaningful for so many people.

The genealogists will pick six crew members and six travellers before the cruise and have them do DNA tests and submit a bit of background history on their families. On the cruise, the genealogists will reveal what they have found out.

The rise in genealogy tourism is accredited to more widespread genetic testing and the digitalising of personal data, so that more people than ever can explore their family history in depth.

Family history exploration

As travellers often quote a need to find themselves as a reason for visiting places, it makes sense to pair travel with family history exploration. If you found out your ancestors came from a small rural town in a European country, wouldn’t you want to visit it?

And it’s good for a country’s economy too. Research by VisitScotland in 2012 revealed that of the estimated 50 million people with Scottish heritage worldwide, at least one-fifth of them wanted to visit the land of their ancestors. Recent surveys showed 34 percent of Canadians travelling to Scotland said ancestry prompted their visit.