What is a Family Tree and Why is It Important?
In many ways, living a fulfilled life has a lot to do with knowing who you are and where you come from. At the center of all that is the concept of family. People realize the value of knowing your familial heritage and passing this knowledge down between generations. And that’s why we make family trees.
So here’s a breakdown of the subject. This is not a piece on how to design a family tree. Instead, we look at the definition of a family tree, and some of the motivations behind familial tree creation.
What Is A Family Tree
Because people tend to get creative with them, family trees take all sorts of forms. This might throw you off in some cases, but at the end of the day, a family tree is simply some sort of chart or diagram that shows the members of a family and the relationships between them. Sometimes, challenges like missing data, or different goals may lead people to adjust the type of chart they use, so you might see different trees illustrated in different ways.
Where Do Family Trees Come From?
The exact origin of the practice is difficult to definitively pinpoint, with depictions of familial trees appearing as far back as in medieval art and in different places in the world. What we do know, even just by looking at some of the oldest family trees, is that people have been documenting their heritage for a very long time.
Why create a family tree?
Creating a family tree requires a significant amount of work, research, and can be complicated. So why do it?
Here are a few good reasons that might make it worth your while:
To feel a connection to your family
One of the first and most obvious reasons why people create family trees is because they want to establish the roots of their identity. This plays an important role in the mental wellbeing of an individual, this feeling of belonging and knowing who you are.
To trace genetics and family health concerns
Many health-related issues are hereditary. A glance at your family tree can tell you a lot more than just who your forebears were. You can learn what they succumbed to and find out what health problems run in your family. You can then diagnose certain issues early, make the right health choices, and sidestep banana skins that got the better of your relatives from past generations.
To settle questions of land ownership by providing proof of descent
Land disputes are quite common. In many of these legal battles, determining who owns what is often settled by going back generations and proving that the historical owners of the property are your ancestors. Proving this may also prove your legal entitlement to the land.
To determine genealogical proof of a connection for potential heirs
Legal disputes are not just limited to land. When a person passes on, it often falls to the state to determine who will inherit their assets in the absence of a will. Or even then, a will may be contested by different parties all laying a claim to the assets at stake. This is especially true when the person had a significant amount of wealth. A familial tree can help to uncomplicate matters.
To have fun
For many people, putting a family tree together is not an end in itself. It is about the journey of discovery. It is a personal Indiana Jonesy sort of experience, diving into history and putting clues together to write your own story.
To preserve the knowledge of ancestors who contributed to family traditions
If familial traditions are not passed down to new generations, they inevitably die away. A good medium for keeping them alive is through family trees. Young members of the family can learn and honor their heritage by keeping those customs alive.
To find out if you are related to someone famous
There are many stories where people have unexpectedly discovered that they are, in fact, related to royalty – even if that is just royalty in Hollywood. For many, the idea that they may somehow be royalty themselves is reason enough to start seriously exploring the possibility. After all, who knows, right?
To learn about family history in relation to historical events
Historical events tend to shape the world and future generations. This is borne out very clearly in families. For a lot of people, creating a family tree is a journey of discovery linking them to historical events like wars, for example.
To involve children to learn about ancestors and preserve family stories
And finally, a familial tree has intrinsic value as the source of vital historical information for individuals, and also for future generations. For many, it is therefore important that they keep this familial history alive and continue adding to it. The way to do this is by educating children about its importance so that they in turn can add to it in future.
A family tree can be a source of great pride, joy, and can bring an irreplaceable sense of belonging for a lot of people. Family trees keep family traditions alive, tell the stories of past relatives, and are incredibly valuable stores of knowledge. If you are thinking about it, there are at least a couple of reasons why starting to compile your own familial tree is a great idea!