Traveling My Roots

A DNA Travel Project

I’m Lisette Austin, adoptee and travel podcaster. I am currently traveling to where my biological ancestors are from – in North America,  Europe and Africa.

Along the way, l am exploring ancestral places, family stories, Black history, the immigrant experience, the complexities of adoption and being multiracial – and ultimately my identity.

Lisette bio shot

About this project…

What if you grew up not knowing your biological family?

As an adoptee from a closed adoption, that was my experience. I loved my adoptive parents, but I was missing a part of myself. Not knowing my biological parents, was a strange truth I skirted around, and tried to ignore. And as a biracial woman, I knew that whoever my Black ancestors were, they were probably stolen from Africa. Even if I could identify that family, I  would never know my  African lineage.

In my late 20s, I contacted my biological mother. But my birth father was still an unknown. Decades later, consumer DNA testing changed everything. I first tested simply to find out which African countries were in my genetic code. But over time, I successfully identified my Black biological father, a man I never thought I would know. 

Now I had all the pieces of the puzzle. I decided to travel to the places my ancestors were from, weaving parts of myself back together.

I am currently traveling to Virginia, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ireland, Scotland, Sicily, Albania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and Nigeria.

Along the way, I plan to audio record personal insights and conversations with family members, local historians and genealogy experts. I will explore family stories, Black history, the legacy of slavery, the immigrant experience, the complexities of adoption and being multiracial – and ultimately my own identity.

I hope to eventually create a narrative podcast that will offer a window into what the DNA travel trend is about – demystifying the process, providing genealogy tips, and inspiring you to uncover hidden family histories and embark on your own heritage travel adventures.

Read the Blog

A collection of travel stories, audio clips & More

2022 Gamble Family Reunion in South Carolina

2022 Gamble Family Reunion in South Carolina

Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the end of this post.... At the beginning of August, my biological uncle Robert and I attended the 2022 Gamble family reunion, held in Charleston, South Carolina. Black Gamble descendants have been meeting annually since the...

Slavery History in the South Carolina Low Country

Slavery History in the South Carolina Low Country

In this audio newsletter I start by giving some brief updates about my project and talking about my recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina – a place that I will definitely return to in upcoming months. I also share an informal, yet extremely informative interview...

Honoring the U.S. Colored Troops

Honoring the U.S. Colored Troops

This Memorial Day I'm thinking about a group of heroic soldiers from deep in our country's history. Nearly 180,000 free Black men and escaped slaves served in the Union Army during the Civil War. They joined what was officially called the United States Colored Troops,...

The White Spot

The White Spot

When my adoptive father attended UVA's medical school from 1957-1961, Charlottesville was segregated. He wasn't allowed to eat in restaurants or go to movie theaters. He wasn't allowed to visit Monticello, US President (and UVA founder) Thomas Jefferson's home....

Teresa Walker Price

Teresa Walker Price

One of the highlights of my time in Charlottesville, VA was spending a few hours with Teresa Walker Price. ⠀ When my adoptive dad talked about his time at UVA, Teresa usually came up. She was one of a few allies the Black medical students had at a time when Blacks...

University of Virginia Medical School

University of Virginia Medical School

One of the main reasons we went to Virginia last month was to attend University of Virginia’s inaugural Black Medical Alumni Weekend. It originally had been scheduled for June 2020, and my adoptive father, Bill Womack, had been invited as alumni. But it was postponed...

About Me

Lisette Austin

I’m a travel podcaster, also known as Jet Set Lisette. I was the host of the award-winning Globetrotter Lounge Podcast where I interviewed diverse women who found creative ways to travel more. (Listen to episodes from the final season that are relevant to Traveling My Roots).

I’m also the creator of the online course, Jet Set 101: Becoming a Travel Hacker.

Joy Barnett

“I think that until you’re in a place where a story occurred, you don’t necessarily have all the pieces of it. You don’t necessarily know the full context of it.”

Frank Delaney

“To understand and reconnect with our stories, the stories of the ancestors, is to build our identities.”

Annie Lennox

“Our ancestors are totally essential to our every waking moment, although most of us don’t even have the faintest idea about their lives, their trials, their hardships or challenges.”

Marcus Garvey

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Judith Thurman

“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

“When I see the past as ancestral wisdom, then everyone and everything is there in the moment. Only then will the bones rattle and the wisdom emerge from the ruins of who and what has been diminished or lost.”

Stay in the loop.

My audio newsletter delivers occasional sound bites from road, sharing some of what I'm experiencing and learning along the way. It's like an informal mini-podcast sent directly to you.