Ancestral Air

By Maria Neuman

Talk of percentages was once saved for interest rates and Wall Street. Nowadays, proportions and rates are terms likely heard during discussions about genes and bloodlines. One of the biggest trends right now is the wildly popular DNA kit. These genetic health tests are expected to hit $310 million in sales by 2022, according to Kalorama Information, a market research firm.

With that in mind, it’s no secret that travel has caught up with the “what’s my story” equation. “Our staff genealogists began to hear destination requests over and over,” says Jon Lambert, director of global client relations for, who last fall teamed up with EF Go Ahead Tours to meet this demand of ancestry-themed travel.

Your Place is Plural

“Most of us have a narrative from growing up of being ‘from’ a place, but the DNA testing has really expanded people’s travel bucket lists and their view of their heritage,” says Robin Hauck, director of business development and partnerships for Go Ahead Tours. Think of it as a guided jaunt with personalized research. If a client books a tour, it comes with’s DNA test results, input from a team of in-house genealogists and a vacation with cultural gravitas. The itineraries can take up to a year to craft, based on the depth of ancestral research. 

Other travel outfits are offering the gene theme in their own way. Royal Caribbean hosts “Unlock the Past” cruises; this fall’s itinerary to Alaska, includes heritage seminars and an optional day trip to Seattle to meet leading DNA and British Isles experts. Cunard, which specializes in transatlantic crossings, features a genealogy cruise with experts from Ancestry on board to help you find everything from your ethnic mix to living relatives—all while crossing the seas as your forefathers once did.

Connections over Differences

Since family tree travel is mainly an American phenomenon, the most popular trips center around Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. “People are more alike than different,” muses Lambert. “Country borders may have changed over the years but most of us are just looking for connection.”

Here are a few DNA-inspired trips to get you in the mood to do a little research and earn some air miles.

Feel the Luck in Ireland

It’s no surprise this country tops the travel list, since approximately 33 million Americans claim Irish ancestry. “Aside from seeing the country, people enjoy sharing their histories with other like-minded travelers,” says genealogist Heidi Mecham of Ancestry, who accompanies travelers on trips. A sampling includes starting in Dublin, hitting must-sees like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and weaving down to County Cork via Kilkenny before heading north to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. One recent traveler was so inspired that she stayed in Ireland, hired a genealogist and connected with ancestors.

Explore Traditions in Israel

“Israel is a huge melting pot for the Jewish community, and there’s a lot of connection to a larger history of people, as well as the 4,000-year history of Judaism,” says Jamie Maxner, one of the destination managers for Heritage Tours, which offers guided journeys that can be enhanced with extra ancestry excursions. Jerusalem and its history are musts, along with the bustling outdoor food markets of Tel Aviv. “You get a taste for the Sephardic communities and their unique traditions,” adds Maxner.

Get to Know Germany

Germans represent approximately 17 percent of the American population; there’s even a “German belt” on the US map, spanning from eastern Pennsylvania to the Oregon coast. “These trips are about people getting a local flavor and hearing what it was like when their family lived there,” adds Lambert. The agenda? Set out from Hamburg, explore Cologne, see Würzberg Cathedral and the Catholic archives before finishing in the Bavarian capital of Munich.

Take a Bite Out of Italy

Over 15.7 million people in the US identify as Italian-Americans. With that in mind, it’s no shock that Italy is a popular destination for ancestral travelers. Go Ahead Tours’ popular getaway begins in the southern hub of Naples, heads to the port city of Bari and picturesque Trulli Valley with its whitewashed homes, before ending on the Amalfi Coast, with stops at churches and records houses to research your personal history. 

Article by Mosaic and provided courtesy of Morgan Stanley.

The authors are neither employees of nor affiliated with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC ("Morgan Stanley"). By providing this third party article, we are not implying an affiliation, sponsorship, endorsement, approval, investigation, verification or monitoring by Morgan Stanley of any information contained in the article.

This article has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed by the authors are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Morgan Stanley.  The information and data in the article has been obtained from sources outside of Morgan Stanley and Morgan Stanley makes no representations or guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of information or data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC.  Member SIPC.   CRC 2204313  08/201818