The Land of My People

by Janet Curley

My genealogy buddy, Linda, is off on her own journey to see The Land of Her People – in this case, Germany. She is fortunate enough to be traveling with friends who are native Germans and will give her that special understanding of a country that staying in hotels can never quite accomplish. She will visit Lake Constance and tour the area where her family originated.
Only last month I was able to do that very thing in Ireland. There is something very profound about walking in the steps of people who came before you, looking across the same landscapes, eating the same food and listening to the same language. When I was there, I stopped and listened to the sounds of nature in the areas I knew they lived. Many things would have changed over the centuries, but the sounds and smells of the landscape would change very little. I heard the birds, so similar to the ones I know in Massachusetts, and listened to the sheep. I felt the breeze blowing across the fields and watched the clouds travel across the sky. I listened to the cadence of the Galway accent and tried to remember turns of phrase that would have survived. These are things that I know my ancestors would have experienced in much the same way I did.
Of course, they probably saw much of the familiar landscape as just a backdrop to growing up, raising families, working with neighbors, dealing with politics, tragedies, and losses, growing old and leaving this Earth. The details of how any of it impacted their senses would have been in a rare and quiet moment of reflection. I hope they had many of those moments… I was lucky enough to be able to take those moments and now think of them as links to my distant family.
I hope Linda finds those moments as well. Knowing her, I suspect she will. She will look out on the lake, hear the birds, smell the water, feel the breezes and taste the foods local to the region. Maybe she will be as fortunate as I was to walk in her family’s footsteps and really experience the land of her people.

6 thoughts on “The Land of My People

  1. These trips must result in profound experiences for descendants of earlier immigrants. Someday, I’ll make a firm commitment to travel to the British Isles and see for myself. I used to say that I’d rather see every state in the Union before exploring foreign countries. But how foreign is a country where your DNA is buried!?!? Where several dozens of generations of the people who are responsible for me being here lived, worked, raised families, worshipped and are buried. As to Linda’s tip to Germany, I’d like to ask one question…Is she bringing back any beer???

    • :) I hope she brings back beer! But she is a wine drinker, so it will most likely be a nice Riesling.
      I recommend doing a genealogy vacation. I prepared for about a year so that I knew where to go and I also had the good fortune of making contacts and then friends in the area who helped me look for everything I could find. It is a terrific experience and makes the family history feel close to home. For that matter, it makes all my travels in the States more relevant as well. I look at all local history in a more personal way now. I hope you will make a trip to the Land of YOUR People!

  2. While I have yet to go to Europe I did go to Pennsylvania. Potter County (with no s as I was told over and over) to be exact. This was where several generations of my Father’s lived, work, and were buried. I had such a strange feeling of being part of that place and wanting to take it all in. So I have a little understanding of your experiences.

  3. I spent a vacation in Austria/ Germany were my ancestors came from and I too thought about how my ancestors had travel the same roads, saw the same scenery, ate the same type foods and spoke some words in the same language(Thank you Herr Remlin) . It was a great experience even though I didn’t make prior contacts to people in the area, I just felt a strong connection to the area, almost as if I had come home. I didn’t like the taste of the beer, but the warm wine drink was very good. Guten Tag

    • Ausgezeichnet! It is amazing, isn’t it…that connection really does happen.
      And trying the local alcohol certainly seems to be a rite of passage. I happen to like Guinness. Good thing, they don’t have much else!

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