Discovering and researching your ancestors is an exciting and interesting pastime that anyone can do. But what is the reason why people begin this hobby and just why is genealogy important?
Within this post, I will be referring to previous posts that I have written exploring just what is genealogy and just why do you research your family history.
Please check them out to learn more about this wonderful hobby.
Discussed in this post:
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What Is Genealogy?
Genealogy is a very popular hobby. It is the second most popular hobby in the United States. And I would bet it is in many other countries around the world. How about the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia?
Before I continue with this post I want to ask you a question.
Do you know what is genealogy?
If you answered that it is tracing your family history, discovering everything such as the facts and the history about your ancestors then you would be wrong.
What? That’s not what it is?
I bet you are confused.
Genealogy and family history defined!
To know the difference between these two terms we need to know how they are defined.
Genealogy is defined as:
A line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor, i.e. the study and tracing of lines of descent.
And family history is defined as:
The history of a family; a narrative about this. In later use also: the study of the history of a family or families; genealogy as an area of research.
So, from these definitions, we can see that genealogy is tracing the family tree collecting facts such as names, places, and dates.
Whereas family history is building up the history of your ancestors, looking at events in their life and chronicling their lives.
For more information about the difference between these two terms why not head on over to my What Is Family History post.
Please watch this!
You may also be interested to watch the following short 2-minute video where we hear what kids think genealogy is all about.
Importance of family history!
Knowing who our ancestors were can reveal to us who we are. As you research your family tree you can also reveal medical conditions that may impact our lives.
The 20 reasons why someone would trace their genealogy discussed in the next section will also show you why this activity is important to so many of us.
Why Do Genealogy Research?
Now that you know the difference between genealogy and family history let’s look at why people research their genealogy. There are many reasons why people trace their ancestry as you will see below.
I have previously written a post looking at the question, Why Research My Family History, and also what started this fascination with our ancestry in the first place.
Within that post, I discussed 6 reasons why anyone would want to research their family history.
While researching for this post I was surprised to uncover 14 more reasons. All of these reasons can be important to you or anyone who wants to know more about their family history.
1. Confirm family tales and stories!
You may be curious whether there is any truth in the family tales and stories that have been passed down through the generations.
2. Trace ancestors’ journey!
You may be interested to discover the journey and the sacrifices that your ancestors made to reach the new world. Was it to find work, escape poverty, or another reason?
3. Preserve the family’s history!
Do you have family heirlooms that need to be preserved? You may want to discover the history behind these artifacts and the people that once owned them. The same can also be said for traditions and culture as well.
4. Family history research passed down!
A relative of yours may have already started to trace your family tree. I became addicted to researching my ancestry due to the many years that my father had spent discovering our ancestors.
5. Finding relatives!
The discovery and connecting with cousins that you do not even know exist may interest you, and so you want to seek out and discover them.
Or, you may want to reconnect with relatives that have separated.
6. Related to anyone famous!
You may want to explore whether you indeed have a famous relative in your family tree.
7. Involvement in historical events!
You may want to know just how your ancestor was involved in a historical event or occasion.
8. Inheriting medical condition!
To discover whether there is a medical condition that has been passed down to you. Or whether there is a possibility that you may inherit the condition.
9. Family inheritance!
You may want proof that you are related to someone that has recently passed away. And so you want to make that connection to receive an inheritance.
10. Land or heirloom ownership!
Similar to the previous reason you may want to prove whether you have an entitlement to an area of land. Or there may be some object that you wish to prove ownership of.
11. Resemblance to a family member!
Is there a resemblance between you and someone that you have seen in an old photograph? If so then you may want to learn how you are related to that person.
12. Find birth parents!
You may want to discover your birth parents or the birth parents of someone that you are researching.
13. Perform a paternity test!
Similar to the reason above you may want to confirm whether someone is your biological father.
14. Religious tenet!
You may want to satisfy the tenets of a church that you would like to join.
15. Discover the history of the community!
Learn how your ancestors shaped the community in which they lived.
16. Historic studies research!
Whether this is for academic or personal reasons you may want to research the importance of an important or famous family.
17. Join a heritage society!
To join a heritage society, you may have to provide proof that you are related to a particular family.
18. Researching family names!
Are there any strange or unusual names that appear in your family tree? If so then you may be interested to learn the origin and meaning behind these names.
You may also want to discover who you have named after. Is there an ancestor that shares your name?
19. Understanding family records!
If you have recently discovered old letters, journals, records, diaries, the family bible, or whatever you may want to learn more about them and the people that they belong and refer to.
20. Preserve your family legacy!
If you feel passionate about your family history you may want to research all that you can so that it can be passed down to your children, their children, and so on.
I would like to credit the Genealogy In Time website, in particular, the Why Genealogy Is Important article.
I knew that there were several reasons but before writing this post I was not aware that there were so many before arriving at this site.
Benefits of genealogy
Given the reasons that I have outlined above you can see that many benefits can arise from tracing one’s ancestry.
So, if you want to settle a dispute over a family heirloom, are curious whether your great-grandfather actually was at Dunkirk, or if you are related to Abraham Lincoln then genealogy research can help you to discover the truth.
Why Do You Research Your Family History?
Now you know the 20 reasons why people may want to research their genealogy. So, the question remains!
Why do you want to research your family history?
Is it one of the reasons that I have outlined above? It could even be more than one reason. Or maybe it is something that I have not included in this list.
Please tell me what started you on your family history journey and why it is so important to you.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed reading about why is genealogy important. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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12 thoughts on “20 Reasons Why Is Genealogy Important?”
I like that genealogy can help to preserve and pass down your family’s history. I have been thinking about getting into genealogy to learn more about my ancestors. It can be insightful to learn about the joys and struggles in their lives.
Thank you for dropping by my site and leaving a comment.
It’s funny how I started. At first I just wanted to record the family stories that my father would tell me. Little did I know that it would snowball from there.
Just remember that genealogy is a hobby that you will be doing for years and years to come. And also, you can take a break from it whenever you want to. Sometimes you will need to to recharge your batteries 😉
I’m sure the reasons why people start genealogy are as many as the people who are family historians. I have met people who believe they will find famous ancestors or who invent ‘famous’ ancestors. One I was in contact with continually called a common ancestor ‘Squire ******’ when I knew he was a farm labourer.
My own story is much more boring: when my father died in 1979 I needed his birth certificate for legal reasons but couldn’t find it. I went to St Catherine’s house in the Aldwych, London to obtain it. In those days we could wait an hour so as to collect the copy. The Aldwych area had no-where to buy a coffee, so I waited in the GRO. Being bored, I decided to find my grandfather’s birth certificate. Within an hour I had two certificates and was totally hooked.
Genealogy or family history in the 1980s and 1990s was paradise: waiting for answers from various government departments, writing to Hampshire Police for details of a lost constable, visiting small London libraries to find details of census records and finally the magic of Kew! Visiting Kew for the first time was like a small boy meeting Santa Claus or an 18-year old rugby fanatic going to Twickenham to see England play Scotland. Genealogy now is still fun but everything, or almost, can be done from the comfort of a chair in front of a screen. I remember going to Blackheath cemetery and finding my g/g/grandfather’s grave within 30 seconds. His gravestone was the first on the left by the gate. It was gone a year later. One of my disappointments was going to Greenwich to see my paternal g/g/grandfather’s house. There was a terrorist alert on that day and I was stopped by the police from entering the area. A month later it had been bulldozed for re-development. Strange how the present sometimes invades the past.
I would say that I didn’t discover anyone important of famous but in fact I have, although most people don’t know them or have heard of them:
1. The man who invented the self-exploding torpedo married a female ancestor.
2. A female Watkins married Charles Dyson (1909), the American millionaire and philanthropist who paid for a college at Cornell University.
3. Eugenie Magnus (1874-1936), an English playwright who went to America, appeared on Broadway, and in 1918 directed two films in Hollywood. Despite a fascinating life she is almost unknown. I was in contact with a group of women in Hollywood who investigate the early history of women in Tinsel Town. I had a reply in which this group did not feel that Eugenie was that interesting. I replied that, considering her history, she was very interesting: she had been an actress in England, had gone to America, appeared on Broadway, been a set designer in Rochester, NY, had been one of the first to have gone to Hollywood and had directed two, if not three, Hollywood films by 1918 before most of Hollywood studios had been built and written two operas. How much more important can you get?
4. And finally, K C Mees. You may not know the name but every time you take a photograph you may thank Dr Charles Mees. Charles was a particularly brilliant student at Imperial College, London. He went into the photography business with a friend and was approached by George Eastman to go to Rochester, NY, to organize a research laboratory. He was very successful and during the two World Wars organised the photography for the American Army and Air Force. The reason for his lack of fame was that he was a brilliant chemist and did exiting things in photographic development. Nevertheless, he changed photography, becoming Vice-President of Kodak and an honorary member of the Croydon Camera Club. He should be better known. He married a Watkins and died in Hawaii. There is almost nothing written about Charles Mees save an autobiography published by the Kodak company and a few snippets on Wikipedia.
Maybe, on second thoughts, my family is interesting but whether or not they are, is irrelevant. I am part of them. But we are part of a huge patch-work and many of those who were my family were involved, directly or indirectly, in some great events.
Thank you again Colin for visiting my genealogy site and sharing your insights into the wonderful world of family history. I can see just how passionate you are.
It’s incredible just how it started for you. And also how long it has been going on for.
Genealogy research is a lot easier now than it ever was. But it sounds that it was still exciting ‘back in the day’.
Still we do need to occasionally step out of our house to find clues about our family’s past.
I was sad to read that you couldn’t access your g/g/grandfathers house, and then it gets bulldozed. Such a terrible shame.
It reminded me of my younger brother who met an old war veteran who knew my grandfather. Unfortunately he did not want to share his stories about the war and my grandfather.
I can understand why a site my grandfather did not want today what happened to him during the 2nd World War.
There are many reasons why we look into our family’s past. One of them though isn’t seeing if anyone famous is in my tree. Although it is nice if I do find someone.
I am drawn to the stories behind them and the excitement of finding them.
Incidentally my 2nd great grandmother was Mary Jane Watkins who came from St Martin in Hereford.
Interesting article, some things I hadn’t really thought of before. Another reason why genealogy is important is a sense of belonging, even though the majority of your ancestors have passed on. You’ve reignited my desire to get back to it, although as mentioned Ancestry is expensive so I appreciate your having the free resources. My story is finding a “golden nugget” I guess you could say. My father was born in 1930, and his father I can’t remember, maybe around 1905-ish. Recently visiting one my uncles I found he had a book that had been put together by the small town they’re from, with old newspaper articles, school pictures, etc. In it there was a picture of my grandfather from grade school dated 1913! I never knew my father looked so much like his father, and I was always said to look exactly like my father. Sadly, my father passed away in 1989 so of course I wasn’t able to show him. But it was an amazing find especially since it was unexpected. And just goes to show you should look at anything that has any possibility of having any genealogical information, you never know what you’ll find. I’m bookmarking your site to come back to!
Thanks for commenting and mentioning the reason because of a sense of belonging. You’re so right with that.
It is incredible what we find when tracing our family tree, and also quite enjoyable when it’s unexpected.
Once I tried searching for my 2nd great grandfather in newspaper articles. I was quite surprised when I did indeed find a couple of articles mentioning him. They were though indiscretions because of alcohol.
But I still enjoyed finding them and sharing with my father who didn’t even know about this.
My Dad has been interested in genealogy for years and he actually discovered that his great-grandmother and grandfather actually had an arranged marriage. She was only 14 and he was in his 30’s. The ended up having 8 children and lived happily ever after. I think genealogy is very interesting.
Oh my! It is interesting what you discover when you start researching your family history. But it can also be surprising as well as you have shared here.
That’s why I love genealogy so much. You just don’t know what you will discover.
I became interested in tracing my family line on my father’s side because he was from a small town in Tennessee in a community called “Leonard”. As my dad’s surname was Leonard. In the community, there is the “Leonard Church”, the Leonard Cemetery, the Leonard cave, and at one time the Leonard School that my dad attended as a child. I wanted to know why and how this community became to be known as the “Leonard Community”. I found out that I had a lot more relatives than I even knew about.
That is really interesting Taianne. Thank you for sharing it on my site. It would be great if you could write a family history book about what you have discovered.
Great post! I recently went looking for my family tree on Ancestry. Unfortunately, they only give you so much information for free and I didn’t feel comfortable giving them my DNA sample. However, your post makes me want to reconsider digging further.
Thanks for sharing, it was really insightful!
Thanks Emonne. I am glad that you liked my article and that it has inspired you to research your family history again.
That is a shame about Ancestry. But there are many free resources available that you can benefit from.
Please check out my Free Genealogy section for plenty of guides.