General Question

tabbycat's avatar

For those who have foreign-born parents. grandparents, & great grands, have you ever visited your ancestors' birth city? What were your impressions?

Asked by tabbycat (1808points) September 8th, 2008
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13 Answers

flameboi's avatar

Yep, not what I expected…

andrew's avatar

I made a pilgrimage to Scotland, and visited the MacLaine of Lochbuie “castle” (really more of a tower). What’s amazing, though, was I found the MacLaine crypt and graveyard on the island—and found an Andrew MacLaine gravestone dated in the 17th century. The Island of Mull was one of the best places I’ve visited in the world.

The whole thing was very powerful for me, but surprisingly not as powerful to my Nebraska-born grandfather who was always harping about our Scottish ancestry. Go figure.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

If inlaws count, my wife and I visited the tiny village in Ireland where her grandmother was born. A relative of my wife’s grandmother still lives there, and we had quite a nice chat. The village, named Cloonty, is so small it doesn’t show up on a map, but the locals knew of it. It’s on Ireland’s northwest coast, near Westport, and the scenery is breathtaking.

My wife told me her grandmother sometimes cried when she spoke of her native country. After visiting the area, I can understand why. I would find it very hard to leave such a place.

scamp's avatar

I want to see Merton College. It was founded by one of my ancestors. There is also a town called Merton I’d like to see there.

Seesul's avatar

I have taken my son to see all of the countries of his hertitage (and he has more than a handful). I have also taken him (with his grandmother) to see the area and farm that she grew up on and what is left of the home of her ancestors. I was the 4th generation born in the city my dad was, so that was a given. Last year I took him to see the house that I first lived in and we stayed in the city I was born in.

I didn’t want him to leave home without seeing the places that his family had come from and I think it was an important part of his education, especially for someone with so many pieces to their background.

srmorgan's avatar

My grandparents and great-grandparents come from many different places. My father’s parents were both born in the UK but their parents or grandparents came from places in Eastern Europe, demonstrating two separate waves of emigration, first to the UK and then to the US.

I went to Leeds where my paternal grandmother was born but the timing was just not right. She had been dead about 15 years and we had no idea if how to find any relatives and I could not really determine where she grew up or where she was from. The neighborhood where she “probably” came from had been the focus of urban renewal in the 50’s and looked very little like it did in the 1890’s when she was born.
Her surmane was not common but not uncommon and the few phone listings I called had no recollection of her or the three brothers who never left the UK.
This was in 1978.

Now 30 years later, I have the exact addresses where she lived and the names of her siblings and the death certificates of her parents and one of her siblings and a possible lead on a first cousin to my father. WHY? Because of the internet and because in the UK the census records are held confidential for 100 years and accordingly I have been able to search the 1891 and 1901 censuses and get this information which was not in the public domain in 1978.

I hope to re-do the trip some day soon.
I would also love to go to the places where the families originated: Tarnow, RIga, Odessa, Kiev, Iasi…


srmorgan's avatar

I thought I might add this to this disucssion:

I took my sons to my old neighborhood in the Bronx in New York City.

Talk about feeling like fishes out of water: my two boys were raised in suburban type living in a small city in North Carolina and they thought that my “home” was really alien to them..

I might have to ask one of them to write an answer on Fluther.

flameboi's avatar

For me, my great grandparents ran from Spain during the civil war, I’m planning to find some relatives someday…

kruger_d's avatar

My grandfather was baptised at the Lom stavekirke in Lom, Norway—one of about 30 surviving of these 12th to 13th century wooden churches. Seeing the church and the font with my mother, aunt and cousin was astounding. We also saw the farms where many of my ancestors lived and visited with many second cousins (some once removed). Would do it all again in a heartbeat.

tabbycat's avatar

Lots of interestering answers, here. Thanks, folks! I know it was an emotional experience for me to visit the area of East London where my father’s grandmother was born. I was lucky that I had the address and got to see the actual house.

I still hope to be able to visit the town in Italy where my maternal grandparents came from. I have the address there, too. It all seems so far away, and yet, in the small world we live in, so very close.

Seesul's avatar

The only thing I have to add to this discussion is, that is to interview your elders before you can’t and be sure to write things down. You may not be interested now, but you or one of your descendants may be later. I personally used it as a discussion point with my mother when I realized she had Alzheimer’s. Every time she would get “stuck’ on something negative, I would change the subject to her early childhood and I was absolutely amazed at the information she was able to pull out. It calmed both of us down and gave us both more constructive conversation.

I then went to her hometown site on rootsweb and started posting the information. She grew up in a very small town, where everyone knew everyone else. The people on the site would ask me about specific names, I’d ask my mom and she’d tell me stories about them and I would relate them back to the posters.

My mother had memories bad to 4 years old that I was able to verify. I would have never know this information, had I not asked and written it down. A win-win situation all around. You can also record, which is even better in many ways.

The only goals I haven’t met with my son yet is to take him to where his first ancestors entered the country, Jamestown, VA. and to to the first family homestead in PA where my Irish relatives settled. I do have detailed directions on how to get to the homestead, supplied by a total stranger that was interested in history. It never ceases to amaze me how generous people can be.

scamp's avatar

@Seesul that’s an excellent suggestion! Sitting on a front porch with an elderly person is a history lesson in the making. From the time when I was old enough to ‘go visiting”, I would sit with the little old ladies in my neighborhood, and listen to their tales while drinking hot chocolate laced with honey. They would tell me about how things were ‘back then”. I think your advice is very good. Turn off the TV, the computer, the ipods and what have you and listen to an elder spin some old yarns. It will enrich both of your lives.

pathfinder's avatar


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