Have you heard of the word genealogy, (simply family history). But what is genealogy all about? Well simply it can be described as the studying of families and the tracing of people’s lineage. It is a hobby for some who are interested in discovering their own family history or maybe that of their spouses. It can also be a full-time profession.
Both type of person though will try to build up a family tree with names, dates and places. They will try to learn more about a family’s history through various sources such as censuses, wills, newspaper articles, local history, etc. By doing so they can build up a picture of the family’s lives.
Genealogy is more than just names, dates and places that shaped a person’s live. It is the stories behind the person. Once we have discovered these we can truly connect to the person that we are researching. For me finding out all that I can about my ancestors is part of the excitement, as well as discovering new branches of my tree along the way.
How The World Perceives the Genealogist
There are many ways that the genealogist can be perceived by the people around us. We could be the one at the family reunion who shares stories upon stories to our relatives. We can let them know what we are currently researching. These events can also be used to gather more information for our research.
Genealogists can be seen to others as:
But people around us may think that we are made. We are running around chasing dead relatives. Trying to find new information that will help us connect the dots, trying to find a new branch on our family tree. It’s important though not to become too obsessed when researching our past. Too many times I have stayed up until 2am researching, fighting off my yawning, hoping to find another clue.
To our mother’s though we seem quite content. Keeping our head down and researching. After all we are doing no harm, right? But to the big genealogy companies they may see us as money, money, money.
True we need to spend money on this hobby. But that is true of any other hobby. Remember though that the services that Ancestry and all the others provide does cost money, so we have to accept that part of genealogy.
Then there is the general public they can perceive us as grave diggers. Chasing the dead and leaving no stone unturned. We will stop at nothing it seems to try and find out where we came from. But in the end it is what we see in ourselves.
We are the amateur detective. Joining the dots as I have said before. It is an exciting hobby when we discover something new. Not only do we feel enriched by discovering our past but also that it is us who has made the discoveries.
So Why Do Genealogists Do What They Do?
Well, for the individual it is a sense of adventure and discovery. There is also pride in knowing who our ancestors were, where they came from and what they did for a living. It can be quite rewarding to be able to draw up a family tree that can go back for a number of generations.
To be a genealogist you have to be a sleuth and indeed have a logical mind when it comes to joining up the dots. People though do generally want to know the answers to these questions, and for some the most important question …
Am I related to anyone famous?
I guess there is always a chance that this may be the case, but for me that was never the question. It was more the recording of my family history and also the preserving of it as well. If I didn’t do this then who would?
Stories would have been lost and history would have been forgotten. Not only did I want to show who my ancestors were to the coming generations, but also to my brothers and their descendants as well.
We though may find out that we are indeed related to someone famous. Or at least have a connection to someone famous. But that is part of the excitement for the genealogist. As I have already mentioned we do not know what we may discover along the way. What stories and people will we discover?
So Where Do I Begin You Ask?
To be able to start drawing up a family tree you have to begin with yourself, the root. Then you can climb up the tree and add your parents and then your grandparents, the branches of the tree. Names and important dates for each person are also entered.
Asking as much as you can from your relatives can be quite helpful in discovering further branches up your family tree. But when we interview our relatives we need to be considerate. Sure we want to find out as much as we can but we also need to respect their privacy and not come across as intimidating.
Certificates, wills, letters, and certificates that you may have and that can also be collected from your relatives can be used to build your tree. There is a plethora of information that you can look at and use for your research.
Collecting documents and records
After this people usually want to look up past censuses of grandparents, great grandparents and so on. Unfortunately the earliest censuses that you can gain access to will be at least 100 years old. So you will have to make sure you have names, dates and places of your ancestors from this time period.
You can look at these either by visiting your local archives or by going to many of the genealogist sites online, such as Ancestry for example. Other types of documents can be found at these places which can also help you further with your research.
New or rather old information is being made available all the time on these genealogy websites. That is where part of the money goes. So that they can provide more and more records and documents about our ancestors to the public.
The Neverending Genealogy Journey
Researching your family history is an neverending journey though as there is always new information to be discovered and new pieces to the puzzle to add. Although it can be quite frustrating when we hit a brick wall. It can though be so fulfilling when we break down these walls and extend our family tree further back.
We can get help along the way though. We can ask our relatives for help, but also join a local family society or library. They can show us the way when we get lost and put us on the right path again. We can also get help from cousins we may have encountered along the way. This is something that I have done many a time.
We can also visit where our ancestors once lived. We can take in the sights that they once may have seen. Although some things may have changed since then we can still get some sort of a picture from this.
Even if we cannot visit these areas we can look at historical maps. By doing this we can start to appreciate their surroundings and the distances that they traveled in order to find work. I have done this myself and have learned more about my ancestors this way. It really opens your eyes to your ancestors’ lives.
So if you are just starting out on your family history journey then you will be surprised as to what you will uncover. You will also be surprised as where you will find help and the living relatives that you will meet.
I have been on this journey for six years now. I will never see the end of this journey. There is always something new to learn about our ancestors. There are always new or rather old records being put online all the time. And there are hundreds upon hundreds of ancestors that we can research. So you can see from this your genealogy hobby will never end.
But not to sound daunting though genealogy will excite and interest you. It’s the same with any hobby though. We all have an interest that we want to do or watch or whatever. And continue doing so time and again. And genealogy is no different.
The bottom line!
This site will help you with your research and guide you on your journey. So whether your are a beginner or have been researching your ancestors for a number of years there is something that you can learn from here.
So start your genealogy journey today and to borrow the tagline from Ancestry:
“You don’t have to know what you’re looking for, you just have to start looking.”
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