Living in a country from where many people emigrated over the centuries (the Netherlands), we get a lot of tourists looking for their roots. I have several clients for whom I have prepared visits, doing research beforehand to find out exactly where their ancestors lived. In some cases, they went there themselves and in other cases I doubled as their tour guide.
I always learn a lot from these trips, especially about my own preconceptions about what is 'normal' :-) Like the time I said "your ancestor lived in the third house" and the client responded "what do you mean, I only see one house?" She had never seen houses that don't have yards between them and did not realize that those houses shared a wall. She saw one house, where I saw twelve!
|Roberta Estes and Cheryl Ferverda looking for their ancestors' graves in Baard, Friesland|
Promoting roots tourism is pretty new in the Netherlands, but I think it has great potential. I know there are similar projects going on in Scotland and Ireland (the Homecoming, the Gathering). In Ireland, local historical societies were asked to reach out to the descendants of the people who left that area and to invite them to come back for a visit. It was a tremendous success. I think such a 'grassroots' approach would work very well in other countries of origin too.
Do you know of any other projects where people visited their places of origin? Do you know of any successful business models or marketing efforts? I would love to exchange ideas so please leave a comment or contact me via my website.