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Exploring your European Family Heritage

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The first Europeans to reach the shores of what is now the US and survive to tell the tale arrived way back in 1620. The Mayflower Society estimate there are now 10 million Americans with European heritage, descendants of the 102 brave souls that arrived aboard the Mayflower. In the years since, waves of immigrants from every European country have added vigor, energy, and enterprise to make America the great country it is today. 


Exploring your family history with a multigenerational holiday is a great way to build and share those family bonds. Parents, children and grandchildren alike will value being able to discover long-forgotten relatives, and the countries, cities, and countryside that are so much a part of their family heritage. 

Here are just a few of the many places where Finest Journeys can help you trace your european family heritage: 




The infamous Highland clearances of the 18th century emptied much of central and northern Scotland of its peasantry. Driven by the need for a better life in the Americas, huge numbers of Scots joined the transport ships.

The ScotlandsPeople Centre and National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh offer access to a huge range of records, and there are many other archives, family history centres and libraries throughout Scotland where you can dig deeper into your European heritage with the help of local experts and Finest Journeys.

Clan Gatherings are regular events that bring together the worldwide diaspora of Scottish family clans. If your family is connected with the Sinclairs, McGraths, Donovans, McEwen, Mackenzie or Menzies then Scotland is the place to be next year.    


ScotlandsPeople Centre – Photo by The GENES Blog


The Irish famines of the mid 19th century created two million refugees – many seeking a new life in the US – especially New England. The EPIC Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin was voted Europe’s No 1 tourist attraction. Your children will be thrilled to discover their connections to Irish history. 

The family history center adjoining EPIC is the ideal place to start your Irish heritage search before heading out into the beautiful countryside to uncover old family homes and long lost relatives who will be thrilled to make your acquaintance. Finest Journeys can introduce you to special places which will make history come alive for you and your family.  


EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum – Photo by Dublin Visitor Centre


Around the start of the 20th century, poverty drove four million people from southern Italy to emigrate to the US. Americans of Italian ancestry now make up the country’s fifth largest ethnic group. 

You can find out more about your Italian heritage by browsing this website. If you already know the last name of your relatives – or those who have passed away – then fill in the village they belong to and hit Trova (find in Italian). You will come away with both the physical addresses and phone numbers of people who share your last name and still live in the village you indicated. After finding out where they live, you can start the process of reconnecting by reaching out. We’d advise making sure whether they are related to you or not before flying all the way to Italy! Although, given the small size of the villages, the chances are high that they are your relatives. 

At Finest Journeys, we know that family history is very important. Why not let us design an Italian family heritage trip especially for you? 


Venice, Italy


Jewish Heritage 

One of the greatest drivers of emigration from Europe was to escape religious intolerance. From the earliest times right through to the present day, religious freedom of the US constitution has offered opportunity and sanctuary. In the 20th century, the religious persecution the Jews faced at the hands of the Nazis led to one of the biggest migrations in history and flourishing and successful Jewish communities across the US 

The Jewish faith and connections are strong and proud across modern Europe and here are just a few European countries and cities the heritage can be explored in: 


Where Belmonte is the spiritual center of Crypto-Jewry. It is a place where an entire community of Conversos kept large parts of their faith intact throughout the Moorish and Inquisition eras and, after 500 years, returned to it en masse. In Porto, at the mouth of the Douro river is the Jewish Museum in the imposing Kadoorie synagogue At Tomar, in central Portugal, is the medieval synagogue built in 1438, the museum holds Judaica, fine art, several medieval Jewish gravestones.  


Jewish Museum, Porto, Portugal – Photo by João Saramago in Time Out


The historic Portuguese Synagogue is the highlight of the Jewish Quarter which dates back to 1645. Today the nearby Jewish Historical Museum, the Holocaust Memorial and the tragic memories contained in the Anne Frank house are the most obvious traces of Jewish history in the city.
s most famous soccer team – Ajax is known as the Jewish team. Kosher restaurants are numerous, some dating back over 200 years.  


Finest Journeys will custom build an itinerary to meet your own and your family’s desires and expectations when tracing your european heritage.





Jews have lived in Paris since medieval times. The Marais – Pletzl – is the heart of Jewish Paris. It buzzes with specialty shops, Kosher restaurants and bakeries, lively cafes and beloved falafel stands. 


Whole roasted cauliflowers at Miznon in Paris – Photo by That Food Cray


The Jewish community of Rome is one of the oldest in Western Europe; today, Rome’s Jewish quarter is a gateway to the past The Jewish Museum is rich with artifacts that illustrate first-hand the traditions and unique customs of the Jews in Rome. The Great Synagogue is magnificent and the Spanish synagogue will reveal secrets and amazing architecture. You can taste your way through Ancient Rome with typical dishes of Roman Jewish culture in the Jewish quarter.


The Synagogue or Tempio Maggiore is one of the most important religious and cultural symbols for the Jewish community in Rome – Photo by Port Mobility



Across every state of the US, there are successful families with a proud European heritage which can be traced back generations. And to explore these family ties across the generations and centuries, Finest Journeys will help you uncover your family roots.

A multi-generation vacation trip is a great way to bring the entire family together in a private journey of family discovery.


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