Map Out Your Heritage: The Travels That Led To You
The traveler's spirit has lived on in humans for as long as we have walked the earth. In fact, there is no other species on the planet that is as well-traveled as we are!
But have you ever stopped to think about the journey your ancestors took to get to where you are today? Whether they traveled across oceans or just a few hundred miles, the path they took played a significant role in shaping your family's history and your own identity.
By examining the paths your ancestors took that ultimately led to you, you can gain a greater insight on who you are and where you came from. The future becomes so much more meaningful when you understand your past.
As we approach another new year, let’s take the time to reflect on our own journeys and honor the travelers who came before us!
A Brief History Of Human Travel
Since the beginning of humankind, we have felt a strong drive to explore the world and discover the unknown. This was demonstrated as far back as the Paleolithic era, when early humans first made their way out of Africa and began to settle around the planet.
As civilizations took hold across the globe and collective knowledge grew, humans gained the ability to travel over large distances more easily. From the hunter-gatherer nomads of the Paleolithic era to the seafarers of the Bronze age to the jetsetting world travelers of today, there is little that can stop us from seeking out travel.
The ancient Greeks had a strong curiosity about the world, and were some of the earliest peoples to track and document their travels. They thoroughly recorded their discoveries as they crossed ocean and land in search of the great unknown, inspiring thousands of years of advancements. This time period led to the creation of the first trading routes between the East and West, connecting the world like never before.
The expertise of these ancient civilizations ultimately led to the types of modern transportation that travelers get to enjoy today. The invention of the steam engine, and then the internal combustion engine, gave way to trains and automobiles that make land travel accessible to the masses.
Once the commercial airplane hit the scene, traveling the world became easier than ever before. As technology has rapidly advanced, our wanderlust has even taken us to outer space and the bottom of the ocean!
The Travels That Led To You
By tracing your heritage, you can find out what travels your ancestors made that ultimately led to you existing in the time and place that you do. By researching their journeys, you can start to imagine how their hopes, dreams, and courage influenced the paths they chose.
Once you connect that with your own life experiences, you can see how every step they took impacts your own life. You'll find yourself feeling closer to your ancestry than ever before!
Here are a few ways to start learning about your heritage:
- Interview your living relatives and record everything that they know about your ancestry.
- Use what you already know to create a family tree as far back as you can. Be sure to double check the spelling of last names – it will make your research much easier!
- Search census records or check out ancestry.com.
- Use the internet to locate gravestones of distant ancestors.
- Look for a genealogy research group in your area.
- Consider DNA testing to determine exactly where your heritage comes from.
Once you do your research, it’s time to put the pieces together and trace history back to your family’s country of origin. It can be so cathartic to finally understand exactly how you came to be. It's also an opportunity to embrace their culture in ways you haven't before. As a traveler, you might even see bits of yourself in their journeys.
However, this isn’t so simple for everyone. History, and fellow humans, have been extremely unkind to many groups of people, and that has led to the destruction or absence of many records. But don’t let that stop you from learning all that you can! After all, it's your right to know.
If you’re having trouble finding information about specific family members, try looking for information about the communities they lived in. You might come across something directly related to them, or you may learn more about their cultural background based on where they lived and who they spent time with.
Once you learn as much as you can, there is only one thing left to do -- travel to the homelands that your ancestors left behind and find the pieces of yourself there that you didn't even know you were missing.
Ways To Visually Track Your Heritage
- Push Pin Map
A push pin map isn't just for tracking your own travels -- it's also a beautiful way to track the journey of your ancestors! Use different pin colors for different relatives or sides of your family, and connect them with string to represent the path that led to you.
- Family Tree Wall
Depending on how many generations you would like to display, creating a family tree wall is a great way to show off your heritage visually! We love this decal from Amazon -- just add framed photos for each relative!
- Heirloom Shadow Box
A shadow box is basically a picture frame that is deep enough to show off objects as well. Use it to display photos, jewelry, military medals, letters, and anything else that has been passed down in your family. It's something you can pass on so that the next generation can celebrate your ancestry, too!