The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Heritage Travel Journey

From Italy to Cape Verde, we hop the globe in search of the soul of Boston.

Edited by Brittany Jasnoff

Tens of thousands of Bostonians trace their ancestry to Italy, including the ancient port city of Genoa. / Alex Tihonovs/EyeEm/Getty Images

Fueled by the recent surge in DNA kits and TV shows where celebrities investigate their family trees (who would have guessed southerner Ashley Judd hailed from the Mayflower?), it’s no wonder that heritage-inspired trips are among the top travel trends of the new year. But what about the roots of the very place we live in? From Italy and Ireland to Colombia and Cape Verde, we hop the globe in search of the soul of the city, with carefully crafted itineraries and poignant personal stories about the 17 countries to which 9,000 or more Bostonians trace their origins. Want to plan a pilgrimage to your ancestors’ birthplace—or simply take a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to a faraway place? Either way, you’ll learn something new about yourself (and, very likely, Boston) along the way.

Personal Narratives

A postcard-perfect vista on the Emerald Isle. / Photo by Sina Ettmer/EyeEm/Getty Images

Discovering My Roots in Ireland: Jay Cashman

Number of Bostonians with Irish Heritage: 93,102

Haiti’s mountainous landscape. / Photo via Getty/Petter Sandell

Discovering My Roots in Haiti: Linda Dorcena Forry

Number of Bostonians with Haitian Heritage: 23,614

cape verde

Fogo is among the 10 islands that make up Cape Verde. / Photo via Anze Furlan/Psgtproduction/Getty Images

Discovering My Roots in Cape Verde: John Barros

Number of Bostonians with Cape Verdean 
Heritage: 15,197

Beijing’s Central Business District. / Photo via ispyfriend/Getty images

Discovering My Roots in China: Janet Wu

Number of Bostonians with Chinese Heritage: 32,667

A sunny shoreline in Vietnam. / Photo via MeogiaPhoto/Getty Images

Discovering My Roots in Vietnam: John Lam

Number of Bostonians with Vietnamese Heritage: 12,283


Photo via HaizhanZheng/Getty Images

A Heritage Travel Itinerary for Puerto Rico

Number of Bostonians with Puerto Rican Heritage: 35,082

A view of Dartmouth, where Mayflower passengers stopped en route to Massachusetts. / Photo via Getty/Daryl Benson

A Heritage Travel Itinerary for England

Number of Bostonians with English Heritage: 30,090

Along the banks of the Ganges River in Haridwar. / Photo via Exotica .im/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A Heritage Travel Itinerary for India

Number of Bostonians with Indian Heritage: 10,447

A serene scene in Montego Bay. / Photo by David Neil Madden/Getty Images

A Heritage Travel Itinerary for Jamaica

Number of Bostonians with Jamaican Heritage: 11,710

Bayeux Cathedral, in France’s Normandy region. / Photo via Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A Heritage Travel Itinerary for France

Number of Bostonians with French Heritage: 12,612

Typical street scene in Cartagena, Colombia of a street with old historic colonial houses on each side of it / Photo via Jesse Kraft/EyeEm/Getty Images

A Heritage Travel Itinerary for Colombia

Number of Bostonians with Colombian Heritage: 9,009

Statue of Johann Sebastian Bach at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. / Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Yair Haklai

Where We Come From

To understand modern Boston, you have to look to the past. 

Photo via Getty/lechatnoir

The 10 Commandments of Heritage Travel

Things to know before you go.