I have traveled to Israel 16 times to learn more about my ancestors, particularly Rav Shmuel Salant, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem from 1840 to August 16, 1909 --- the day he died. Born on January 1, 1816, he lived 93 years, 8.5 months on the secular calendar, and was they key fund-raiser and leader in bringing Jews back to Jerusalem. His father-in-law, Yosef Zundel Salant, was his predecessor as Chief Rabbi, so that's another connection. (In case you are wondering, they came from the city of Salantai in Lithuania, thus the same last names because under the Tsars, Jews were not allowed to have family names at that point. This changed when the Tsars decided to not only allow Jews in the Russian Army, but to force them into it. The government needed a way to keep track of who was who, so family names became required.)
My paternal grandfather came to the USA in 1917, and was joined by his wife and first son in 1920. The long separation was the result of the USA entering World War I, putting the Ottomans who occupied the Holy Land on the other side.
Rabbi Nossen Notte left two brothers and two sisters in Jerusalem, and they were "fruitful and multiplied." Three of my dad's first cousins are still alive, and dozens of second and third generation family members are all over Israel, ranging from a kibbutz two miles from the Gaza separation fence to ultra-religious folks in places like Bene Barak and Sfot (Safed).
Getting to meet so many relatives has been wonderful, and many have come to the USA and met my parents, brothers, nephews and nieces.
But back to the ancestry search. I found that the Old Yishuv Museum in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Jerusalem, was very helpful, as was the archival section of the Israel Museum. The most helpful were the family members themselves because some had heirlooms belonging to Rav Shmuel. Also, Rav Shmuel was so famous that a section of Jerusalem, Kiryat Shmuel was named for him and he attended the dedication -- there's a plaque at the section entrance honoring him!
I also wanted to find out more about my grandparents. I had their address in Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, so I went there. To my surprise, the building was still standing, and looked like it had not been renovated since before World War I. I asked a couple of very old men if they knew the name "Salant," and they did. One showed me where he thought the family lived, and it corresponded to the address I had discovered.
I don't know if I am being of any help, but I admit to loving the chance to find and meet family members.
My husband, three children and I visited Germany to see where his family had lived. We went to a small town of 2500 people and visited the cemetery but did not find any old gravestones with his family's name. There were more recent ones present so we knew family still lived in the area.
We went to the post office and train station to find an English speaking person to ask about family in the area. We met the only English speaking person in the town at the train station. He told us to go to lunch in the next town and he would call around and see if someone would agree to meet with us. There were eleven families with our family name in the phone book. After lunch he took us to meet a young man with the surname of my husand's great grandfather. The young man said his aunt would know more about the family and set up a meeting with her. We had brought an old photograph of my husband's great grandfather and his family. When we met the aunt she went into another room and came back with the same family photo we had brought. The family lost touch with each other when the last German speaking/writing family member in America died. My husband's father did not know his mother and aunt had been in contact with family in Germany. This woman was very happy to meet us and said the American relatives had sent them care packages after WWII. She said she would give our address to the man in the family who had the family tree and make sure he sent us a copy. (He did.) It was very exciting to see the small town where this branch of my husband's family had lived for several hundred years. My children, though young at the time, still remember that visit with German family.
I went to County Cork Ireland where my great grandfather lived as a child.He came to America at age 8 after his parents.died. My three children and my husband went with me. We visited the town of Kinsale and had a picnic at a local point of interest where he and his family had picnics on Sunday afternoons. We visited the local cemetery and looked for gravestones with the family name but most had been made of wood and did not survive. The local history museum was open and we made inquiries there of the family. We visited several Catholic churches in the area and were allowed to look at church records of marriages, births, deaths, etc. dating back to the 1800's. We did not learn much new information sadly but we got a glimpse of where out family came from and the life they lived there.