Mama Holiday

Families are a lot like the two-headed pushmi-pullyu creature from Dr Dolittle.

When the mythical gazelle-unicorn tries to move, both heads go in opposite directions. In early adulthood, we want to test the boundaries by escaping from our families.

As the saying goes: "Families are like peanut butter: it takes a lot of sweetness to hold all the nuts together."

Then, as we grow older, perhaps with children of our own, we pop on the rose-coloured glasses.

After spending much of our lives trying to get away, we spend the rest trying to reconnect, often through the family tree.

This is the basis of the boom in genealogy tourism, which has sprouted a new branch: reverse genealogy.

No, it's not time-travelling to see what your family might look like in the year 2050. Ireland's Reaching Out project – which fortunately is nothing like corporate-speak "I'm reaching out to unpack some issues with you right now" – uses volunteers in the villages to identify who left and trace their descendants.

It's kind of like stalking, but safe.

"There are few human instincts stronger than the need to belong," according to the project's founder, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

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"And it is not surprising that, for many people, tracing their genealogy becomes a personal and emotional journey."

His aim is to invite home the 70 million diaspora, although that could put quite some pressure on the tourism infrastructure, to be sure. Check out facebook.com/IrelandFamilyHistory.

However, it can make for uncomfortable reading.

I discovered forebears who were corrupt politicians, conducting illicit affairs in the tunnels under the British Parliament.

This would explain our children's predilection for obfuscation when asked, "So who ate the last piece of chocolate . . .?"

If you have Scottish heritage, you can search scotclans.com/whats_my_clan. From September 13 they celebrate Angus Heritage Week, with the Homecoming festival scheduled for next year.

It turns out my hubby comes from two clans: MacTavish and MacThomas. The former were known as The Children of the Mist, which is a little too close to the murderous Children of the Corn for my liking.

The MacThomases hail from Finegand, which means "burn of the heads".

This refers to the time tax collectors were attacked by clansmen who cut off their heads and threw them on the pyre.

Hey, I get pretty annoyed at tax time, but that's taking it a tad too far.

I reckon it'd be fun to walk in the footsteps of our forefathers (and mothers, of course).

As long as there's not too much mud. It tends to stick.

Like branches on a tree, we may grow in different directions. But we will always have the same roots.

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