We are the generation that was raised on the 1970s TV docudrama Roots. And that has been active in finding our own. Well, we just heard from a woman in France named Émilie Thyebaut who runs a small tour business called France Just For You, and she specializes in helping baby boomers find whatever roots they might have in her country. We found her story interesting enough to publish.

Baby boomers are often interested in researching their ancestry and many boomers in the USA, Canada, and Australia have roots in Europe. When they come to us on a quest to trace their French ancestry and visit the places where their ancestors lived, this can require some interesting detective work on our part.

A hilltop village in the French Pyrenees.

In one such case, a family from Texas knew they had roots in France and wanted to find and visit their ancestral village. Luckily, their French last name was quite rare and we were able to trace it to a particular valley in the French Pyrenees Mountains. After some research, we found a cemetery where one of their ancestors was buried back in the 18th century. After paying their respects, the family toured the entire valley and learned about their heritage with the help of a local guide.

Laura Crotet (right) works with Emilie Thyebaut to coordinate tours.

World War II ancestry

Another common travel request relates to boomers whose fathers or uncles fought in World War II and on D-Day, in 1944, landed on the beaches of Normandy. Once we know the soldier’s name and battalion, we can arrange a day-tour following the exact route that their ancestor would have taken during the battle. However, when some of the details are missing, we need to do some research first.

Omaha Beach.

I once had a Canadian traveler who knew that his uncle had been injured in the Battle of Normandy around the area of Dieppe, and had died. However, in spite of his own extensive research using the Veterans Network, he had never been able to locate his uncle’s grave. One of the guides we work with though is very knowledgeable about World War II history and discovered that our traveler’s uncle had been taken to the main hospital in Rouen (some 40 miles from Dieppe) and had died there. He was buried in one of the military cemeteries in Rouen, but his name had been misspelled. This explained why he could not be found using the Veterans Network. On his trip to France, our traveler was able to visit his uncle’s grave and pay his respects.

The American Cemetery above Omaha Beach.

The most satisfying part of planning personalized tours with this ancestral element is that as well as helping baby boomers see the best of France through my eyes as a local, they can finish their tours understanding a little more about themselves, their family, and where they came from.

Emilie Thyebaut is the visionary behind France Just for You.


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