14:16 PM

Visiting an Ancestral Home: A Life-Changing Experience


An ancestral home is a house, village, or region where your family lived in the past. Visiting an ancestral home—walking where your ancestors walked, putting their experience in context—can be a life-changing way to connect with your past.

Recently, I took my first trip to England from the United States to teach at RootsTech London. As soon as the conference ended, I started driving north. There was one place in England I wanted to visit more than any other: Eccleshill.

Eccleshill is a village that has been swallowed up by the city of Bradford, in Yorkshire. In this old industrial zone, more than a hundred woolen mills once hummed with the labor of thousands of workers, including children. One of those children was my great-great-grandfather Washington McClelland, born in 1861.

As a young man, Washington made two momentous decisions that changed the course of his life and the lives of his descendants, including mine. I wanted to see the place where he lived and walk—at least for a day—in his shoes.

Learning as much as I could about Washington’s life helped me plan three meaningful stops in Eccleshill and Bradford. Though each destination was a little different, I hoped they would all help me better understand him and feel more connected to him and his parents, John and Jane.