Ask Harriet: Finding family roots in Germany

Many of you tell me how much you enjoy researching your family’s genealogy on Grand Circle vacations, and this year I was lucky enough to travel to the land of my ancestors in the Samaniskes region of Lithuania. After having no luck look looking through records kept at local churches, we just drove up to a farmhouse to see what they might know. 

The family welcomed us into their home and shared their meal with us. We ate and talked, and at one point we saw such a resemblance to my mother in the hands and face of the woman that it stopped Alan and I in mid-sentence. 

Even though I don't know for sure that this woman was a relative, I still felt such a strong connection. So naturally, I was excited to hear from Al and Gina Fuehrer, 3-time travelers from Roswell, Georgia, who shared their story about a family reunion in Germany on our Great Rivers of Europe cruise.

My wife and I took your Great Rivers of Europe tour from Vienna to Amsterdam, which includes a stop in Wurtzburg, Germany. After seeing the primary attraction, the Residenz, we had the remainder of the day to ourselves, and decided to see if my family in Erlabrunn am Main was home. We had not seen, or talked with them in 35 years. We took a bus to my cousin Helga’s restaurant and guesthouse. When she walked in, I said in my tourist German, “Hello, I am Albert from America.” After our hellos, she called our other cousins in town. Within an hour, six cousins and some of their spouses were sitting around a table in her restaurant. We spent the next six hours or so eating and drinking and catching up on the past 35 years.

When it was time to go, one of my other cousins, Gelinda, took us back to the boat. One of your crew members at the desk invited her to stay for dinner. My cousin enjoyed talking with your crew and her tour of the boat. Regina and I still enjoy talking and remembering our visit with my family on that trip.

—Charles Collins, 8-time traveler, Columbia, MD


Me with my cousins Helga, left, and Gelinda, right.

Gina and I lead a toast at the family dinner table—a reunion 35 years in the making.


Charles, thanks so much for writing with this wonderful story. It's amazing how connections with family can last a lifetime—and in fact, I've heard from many a traveler who asked their Program Directors for help in reaching out to family members they'd never even met before. (In retrospect, maybe Alan and I should have contacted a Program Director instead of driving around blindly in Lithuania!) There are so many ways that travel touches our lives—and I think retracing our roots is one of the most special.

Do you have questions for me about trips you’re taking or vacations you would like to go on with Grand Circle Cruise Line? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at harriet@gct.com. I look forward to sharing what you have to say!

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Do you have a question you’d like to ask me, or comments about the stories featured in Harriet’s Corner? Please email me at harriet@gct.com—and your submission could be featured in the next Harriet’s Corner update. I look forward to sharing what you have to say!