Most of us have some knowledge about our immediate family members, far less about our remote ancestors. But if we seek a deeper understanding of our background, whether it’s due to health issues, legal matters, or simply out of curiosity, we inevitably turn to genealogy.
What does genealogy mean?
The most common answer to the question “what is the meaning of genealogy?” is that it is a record of the ancestry and descent of a person, family, or group. It is also defined as the study of family origin and histories, or a group of individuals or species having a common ancestor. Within this article, we refer to the word “genealogy” in the context of pedigree research which normally starts with collecting names and most significant dates such as births, deaths, and other notable events. The process of gathering the information is quite exciting yet complex. You might have to turn to public records, censuses data, directories, mass media publications, and even do genetic testing depending on the purpose of your search. Therefore you need to set a goal, make a research plan, and define a list of available offline and online resources. Make sure to study the genealogy glossary before you start digging and analyzing.
What is Genetic Genealogy?
This field of study uses genetic material along with traditionally discovered information to identify if the individuals are related, find or and establish ancestry. The method has become quite popular and makes it possible to trace the ancestry even for those who aren’t able to use conventional sources of knowledge, e.g. orphans, adoptees, child migrants, etc.
What is the Difference Between Genealogy and Family History
Even though the terms genealogy and family history are often used as synonyms, most professionals conclude that the first one with its cold facts and dates is just the backbone for a more vivid and detailed narrative of the latter. When you put together all facts and stories behind them you get the opportunity to see previous generations in their historical and social context with all their joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies.
Why Do Genealogy?
Naturally, there are some other significant reasons for exploring your heritage other than creating a beautiful family tree you can be proud of. Although the primary purpose of research used to be seen as establishing kinship and succession rights, nowadays more and more people study their family line to connect with their roots and gain a sense of belonging.
Find Living Relatives
How well do you know your extended family, for instance, your great-grandmother’s cousin? And if you are an adopted child or have a history of adoption in your family tree? With the same likelihood, you may have a biological relative you’ve never met or even known about right in your neighborhood or anywhere across the world. If you have no information to help you in your study, you can start with ancestry DNA testing. Genetic testing not only allows you to look into your origins up to a millennium back but also helps you reach out to people who have the same DNA segments as you and maybe even have a family reunion.
Another practical side of taking up genealogy research is taking care of your health. Knowing about your family history can help you minimize the risks of developing serious problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, or cancer. Even though you cannot change your genetics, you can adjust your lifestyle and change your habits to prevent or reduce the chance of developing an unhealthy condition. It is useful to collect information from your relatives by asking questions and looking into documents like medical records and death certificates to understand what inherited diseases might run in your family. For more information, you can turn to genetic testing, especially when you lack information about your family members.
Suppose you’ve heard some legends about one of your relatives but never saw any facts supporting the story behind it. What if the proof that something happened can bring you peace of mind or the real reason to be proud of who you are. And if the legends are not all that bright, maybe you just need a chance to forgive and accept or have an educational experience for your children. One way or another, these are the worthy reasons to look into your genealogy and try to find the answers.
Some people start genealogy research hoping to find proof of relation to a historical figure or someone prominent. It’s exciting to know that you are related to a movie star, a famous musician, or maybe even one of the American presidents.
Deeper Personal Identity
Learning about your family’s history can give you a deeper understanding of yourself. When you look at every individual, whose life preceded your appearance, in the context of time and place of their existence, you might be able to find answers to many questions and assess the circumstances of many important events from a different perspective.
So why study genealogy? The older we become, the more we realize how valuable the family is to us. The more we find out about family ties and relations, the deeper is the understanding of our roots and background. It helps us learn to accept, forgive and empathize. When we analyze the disappointments and hard times our ancestors had to make it through and still survive and even be happy, it makes us more resilient to challenges in our own lives. We receive useful clues to staying happier and healthier and increase the feeling of self-worth.
Our family history can become an invaluable source of knowledge and a precious gift not only to us but to the generations to come.