How to Use Ancestry to Guide your Travels

In early 2017, we began becoming interested in our family ancestry. Ever since we started dating in 2010 our love for exploring the world has grown. There’s nothing better than immersing yourself in different cultures and experiencing new things. As our fondness for traveling grew, so did our interest in knowing where we came from. So in early 2017 we decided to embark on an even crazier journey than before: to discover our Ancestry for a little DNA travel!

That decision turned out to be a big commitment. As you can imagine, researching into the history of one family line can take many long hours and involve many confusing moments, late at night, with blurred vision as you’ve been staring at the computer screen for hours on end. So multiply that by eight (to include Stephanie’s four trees and Zach’s four trees)! In total, we spent hundreds of hours over the course of six months trying to find out as much as possible on these incredible humans we call family.

Our goal was to find out which cities and countries our families were from so we could add those to our travel bucket list. How amazing would it be to stand in the center of town and know that your ancestors had stood right there a few hundred years ago?

The DNA journey to researching family history was a long one, but 100% worth our time and efforts. It resulted in us feeling closer to our families than ever before. Now that we know who we are, we have a better idea of where we’re going in life. Genealogy travel is probably the most rewarding type of traveling there is.

In today’s post, we are going to share how to use to research your family trees and then enjoy a little genealogy travel. We will share how to find as much accurate information as possible and how to organize it.

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Below are 10 steps to creating your family trees using

#1 Gather Information from Family

#2 Sign-up for

#3 Input Everything you Know

#4 Follow the “Hints”

#5 Save Photos and Documents

#6 Type your Family Trees

#7 Do Additional History Research

#8 Finalize Everything

#9 Share Your Family Trees

#10 Let it Guide Your Travels

#1 Gather Information from Family

The first step to researching your family trees is to gather as much information as you can from your immediate family. Grandparents are a good resource because many times, they have already done some research of their own. Ask them for family tree info, photos, and documents they may have. If you are able to, sit down with them and ask them to share family stories. Learn as much from them as you can. Stories will help paint a picture for you about family members and personalities so you will feel like you knew people you never even met.

Besides your grandparents, also check with your parents, aunts, uncles, etc. The more information you can get as a baseline; the more accurate your results will be.

family tree

#2 Sign-up for

Once you have your baseline family information, it is time to get an account. Visit the website and create an account. They allow a free 14-day trial so we recommend you start with that. But let’s be honest, 14 days is nowhere near enough time to accumulate your family tree. So once that trial is up, you will need to pay on a monthly basis. As stated above, we needed six months to complete everything. So depending on how much time you have to invest into this, you may need between 3-12 months to finish your research. Don’t think about it, just buy it – it’s well worth it.

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For help and support with how to use ancestry, checkout their getting started guide.​

There are many other websites out there to track your family trees like,, and However, after looking at them, we felt Ancestry looked the most up-to-date, most pleasing to the eye, most user-friendly, and the clearest. So that is why we went with Ancestry.

ancestry to guide travelshow to use ancestry to guide your travels

#3 Input Everything You Know

Now it is time to combine steps one and two. Take all the family information you gathered in step one and begin typing it into Ancestry. Start with yourself. Enter your name, birthday, and birth location. Also add your siblings and their information. Then I recommend you enter information systematically. Move up the tree to one generation earlier, which is your parents, and enter their information.

Now it’s time to take a fork in the road. You’ll need to do both your father’s ancestry and your mother’s ancestry. So start with your mother’s. Enter her parents and siblings info. Her parents are going to serve as 2 of the trees you will track: her father’s tree and her mother’s tree (by maiden name). When you’re done, keep moving up the tree. Continue as far as you can.

Once you have entered everything you know, back track to your father’s family and repeat all the steps there.

use ancestry to guide your travels

When you have entered everything you know, it is time to sit back and watch the magic happen. Ancestry will take a little bit of time, but once it sprinkles its magic dust, you will start seeing little “hints” pop up over each person’s name on your tree. This is where the real work starts.

#4 Follow the Hints

The “Hints” are the fun, yet grueling, part of family tree research. The fun thing is they may show pictures of your ancestors, letters from them, obituaries, newspaper clippings, etc. It is so exciting to see this because each and every hint helps you get to know them better. The grueling part is the patience it takes to sift through all this information. Much of it is repetitive and time-consuming. Things like Census records are rewarding because you can learn a lot about someone from a census like age, race, country of origin, occupation, etc. But it takes a lot of time to read each one and record the information off it. Regardless, it’s all worth it.

The nice thing about is that each document and photo “hint” can be saved into that person’s file. When you open a person’s file you can see their information 4 ways: lifestory style, facts style, gallery, and hints.

Go one person at a time, sift through all their hints, save the ones that appear accurate, and get to know them. When you’re done with that person, move up the tree (to earlier generations).

This step takes up about 50% of the time so hang in there.

Here are the hints you can look forward to finding:

-birth certificates

-death certificates

-census records


-newspaper articles


-baptism records

-military records

-immigration records

-marriage certificates/records

-stories from family members

hints from ancestry

#5 Save Photos & Documents

Once you have completed your family tree research on Ancestry and have looked at all the hints, it is time to start gathering the “gallery” documents and photos into your own records. This step is not required. You could just let them stay on forever. But that’s not convenient when you’re trying to show your kids photos of their great-great-grandparents. It’s not convenient when you want to make a scrapbook of your ancestry. That is why we recommend you “save” every document and photo into a folder on your computer. That way they are easily accessible and you can have the photos printed for memories.

To save them, simply go into the “gallery” of each person, in the right hand corner click “save to your computer”.

Since you will have 4 family trees (2 from your father’s parents + 2 from your mother’s parents) I recommend you make 4 folders to keep all the documents organized. Or in our case, we did mine and Zach’s families so we had 8 total.

destination Dorworth ancestry

#6 Type Your Family Trees

Step six involves typing a document of your family trees. This step is also optional. There are two ways to display family trees: family tree style (as Ancestry does) or document style. On it’s cool to see the tree display and to scroll up and down on the screen to see it expand. However, it is also very confusing. We felt it was going to be much clearer and more organized in a document format typed in bullet points.

This step takes about 30% of the total time, but now we have 8 documents we can print and share with family. Each document starts from generation number one (the earliest generation we could track back to) and goes on down the line until it reaches us! It’s basically all the key points from Ancestry typed out.

In order to explain this better, we are going to share an example. Below, you will see just pages 1-2 of Stephanie’s Mason Family Tree document. As you can see, we started with a recap of the family history and names of families that married into the Mason family. Then we shared generation one: names, birthdays, locations, children, spouses, etc. followed by generation two. Type in all the information you have about each person. In addition, if you had any documents or photos saved, type that in as an “appendix” like we did (if you desire).

how to use ancestry to guide your travelshow to use ancestry to guide your travels

#7 Do Additional History Research

Once you have finished typing out everything you learned from Ancestry, you may want to do some research outside of the Ancestry website. We ended up finding a lot more information about Zach’s grandfather’s family simply by Google searching a few ancestor names. We got access to old city books and it was incredible to learn more about how his family was some of the first settlers in a town in Ohio!

Some websites to do more research on are:

Also search for the meaning of each family name and possible origin of the name. Add all the new information you find into your family tree document.

how to use ancestry to guide your travels

#8 Finalize Everything

The hard work is done, we swear!! By now you have spent hundreds of hours reading, researching, and typing. At some points you may have felt like your mind was going a million directions at once. So now it is time to review everything. Review your family tree document for typos, make sure formatting is consistent, and be sure each appendix number is accurate.

Now is when we recommend you have a few people proof-read and accuracy check your documents. Your grandparents are perfect for this task. Print them the document and ask them to read through it, edit anything that is incorrect, and/or add in additional info they may know. We did this and found a few errors on each document. They were minor errors of things we found on Ancestry, but they must have been wrong on Ancestry so our grandparents were able to clarify some things. Trust us, they’ll love it if you ask them to do this! They love reminiscing and sharing stories about family memories.

mason family

#9 Share Your Family Trees

Step nine is a very rewarding step: share. You have invested so much time into this project. Now it is time to share it with whoever you want. Email or mail the trees to your family members. Maybe do this as a birthday or Christmas present! They will love you for it.

Since we are bloggers, we decided to post our trees onto this website under an ANCESTRY page. That way it can never be lost. It will always be out there on the world wide web for all to see.

mason family tree

#10 Let It Guide Your Travels

Finally, we reach the reason this whole project started: genealogy travel. Travel is what sparked our interest into researching our family lineage. Travel is what drives us to live more, see more, and help more. Therefore, our travels will now revolve around visiting destinations linked to our ancestors. When you’re ready to plan your vacation, use our 13 easy steps to planning a trip list. (See Related: Our Travel Bucket List)

The European cities we are adding to our Travel Bucket List, thanks to family, are:

– Cardinham, England (Bunt family)

– Hesse, Germany (Batz family)​

London, England (Mason family)

– Gloucester, England (Parry family)

-Norfolk, England (Purdy family)

– Germany (Dorworth and Heuwagen families)

– Wales (Dorworth family)

– Netherlands (Stetler family)

how to use ancestry to guide your travels

Know where you want to go already? Book it here.

We can’t wait to visit and piece together more of our Ancestry! We hope you are able to do the same after you discover your family tree. Happy genealogy travels!

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