Genealogy Tourism Is Booming as Americans Search for Identity in DNA and Abroad

By Kristen V. Brown for Gizmodo—Liza Lizarraga has spent hours combing through paper and digital archives to track her family’s history the old-fashioned way, and she has spit in a test tube to find out what morsels of her family’s history might be revealed by her DNA. In September, though, Lizarraga will walk the same path as her ancestors when she visits the German town of Höchstadt an der Aisch, where her great-great-great-grandmother is from.

It is the third vacation that Lizarraga, a retired resident of the Los Angeles suburbs, has taken with the aim of exploring her European roots. It is the first trip, though, for which she hired a professional to help her do it. James Derheim of the tour company European Focus will lead Lizarraga and her husband of 25 years on a personalized tour of the small German towns to which Lizarraga had traced her roots. In advance of the trip, Derheim even visited the house where Lizarraga’s great-great-great-grandmother lived in Höchstadt, in hopes that come September Lizarraga will be able to take a peek inside.

“If I take a DNA test and it tells me I’m German, that doesn’t necessarily tell me anything,” Lizarraga said. She doesn’t just want to know the broad strokes of where her ancestors might have hailed from at some point in history. She wants to see where her great-great-great-grandmother actually lived.

“I am fully 100 percent American,” she said, “But I want to know where my family is from.”

Excerpt. View more at: