Heard of the word genealogy, or the term family history. But what is genealogy all about? Do you even know why people feel the urge to trace their ancestry?
Well, simply it can be described as the studying of families and the tracing of people’s lineage.
Who researches genealogy?
It is a hobby for some who are interested to learn about their family history or maybe that of their spouses.
It can also be a full-time profession.
Both types 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.
More than you can imagine!
Genealogy is more than just names, dates, and places that shaped a person’s life. It is the stories behind the person.
Once we have discovered these we can truly connect to the person that we are researching.
To find out all that I can about my ancestors is part of the excitement, as well as to discover new branches of my tree along the way.
Express Your Thoughts Below!
I would love to hear from you.
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 ones at the family reunion who will share stories upon stories with our relatives.
We can let them know what we are currently researching, but also use these events to gather more information.
But there is more to the perception of being a genealogist.
Genealogists can be seen by others as follows …
Are genealogists all mad!
But people around us may think that we are mad.
We are run 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 2 am researching, fighting off my yawning, hoping to find another clue.
To our mother’s though we seem quite content. We keep our heads down and continue to research.
After all, we are not harmed, right?
But to the big genealogy companies, they may see us as money, money, money.
We are passionate about discovering our ancestry!
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 do 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!
To join 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.
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 many 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 preservation 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 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 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 along the way.
Consider how our relatives feel!
Ask as much as you can from your relatives. This can be quite helpful in discovering further branches of 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 you can collect from your relatives can be used as well.
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 period.
Where do you find this information!
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 a neverending journey though as there is always new information to be discovered and new pieces to the puzzle to add.
There are brick walls though!
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.
Get a sense of your surroundings!
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 to find work.
I have done this myself and have learned more about my ancestors this way.
It opens your eyes to your ancestors’ lives.
My Final Thoughts!
So, if you are just starting on your family history journey then you will be surprised as to what you will uncover.
You will also be surprised as to where you will find help and the living relatives that you will meet.
It is neverending!
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 you are a beginner or have been researching your ancestors for several 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.”
Why not head on over to Famicity after reading this post. There you will find more information on the history genealogy through the ages.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed reading this article about what is genealogy. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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22 thoughts on “What Is Genealogy?”
I think knowing where we come from is very important. it gives us a sense of pride and if not,it will allow us to better ourselves and future generations. What will be interesting to trace is the lineage of many of the so-called slaves and their offspring. Like in South Africa, many slaves were called by the name of the month they got off the ship or the day. So today many people have a surname such as January or Monday etc.
I always think to myself I know who and what my ancestors did for a living. And that makes me proud that I know that. And I have a book to prove it, lol. But seriously I don’t know all of them, obviously, but I know a great deal about them, on my father’s side and mother’s side.
I did not know that about slaves names so thank you for sharing that. You learn something everybody.
Hey there owain,
It is very interesting to know who our ancestors are. They might sound like boring normal people who live the same routine as we do everyday, or.. they might be astrologers or who knows, a gold mine owner?
It definitely doesn’t hurt to know and boy, I’m feeling the urge to check out ancestry dot com and give them some cash lol. Thanks for writing this, have a great Wednesday!
it is interesting to know who our ancestors are and what they did for a living. Where they lived and who the other family member were are also great areas to research
Discovering one’s genealogy can be both wonderful as well as scary or emotional.
I mean, I’ve always been interested by my past. Because, without our past, there will not be a present.
But sometimes some families either have skeletons in their closet or family secrets. That’s the annoying part though. Some people are not willing to be open about past events or family history for various reasons.
And it can be emotional too. Especially since some people have not gotten over their older family members’ death. And bringing them up will trigger memories and emotions.
I wish I had a simple, straightforward way to find out about my past instead of walking on eggshells, avoiding psychological minefields… For example, I wish I knew what my paternal grandfather worked as while he was still alive. I don’t even know how my parents met! Sometimes when questions are asked, we are deemed as being nosy!
Good luck to me in this process of finding out about my ancestors!
– Girl @ girlintherapy. com
You are right. You need to be tactful when asking relatives questions. If it is too soon then maybe it is a better idea to just wait a little longer.
You also have to be mindful about what you do include in your research. Other living members of your family may not wish to have certain bits of information made available.
I suppose certain cultures or families do not wish to disclose information, even to other family members. Which is a shame as descendants may wish to know.
All the best with your fact finding and I hope this site proves helpful in your quest
So, if you look into your family history does that make you a geneologist, or is it an actual profession?
One thing I would recommend when seeking your background is to make sure you talk to the old people in your family before it is too late. They know all.
Thanks for an interesting read, Kris
Sure you can call yourself a genealogist. There are obviously though people who do it as a career, whether they work in an archives, genealogist company such as Ancestry, or who offer their services to trace your family tree.
Elderly members of your family are a good source of information. It is also a shame that when they pass that knowledge isn’t passed onto the following generations. May I suggest my Top 20 Family History Interview Questions that you could use to ask members of your family
Hey Owain. This is the best site I’ve seen yet! I wish this site was around when I started researching my family genealogy. Your site is very simple and easy to follow, which is critical. I can literally start with your Home tab and work my way to the right and learn everything I need for successful research. Really nice work.
Thank you so much for the compliment. My intentions with the site were to provide clear information and make it easy to find for people. I will continue to keep the site simple to use as I add more and more information.
Take care and thank you again for your kind words
Interesting topic. I have never tried to do a family tree for my family, but I think something like that might be of interest to my children in the (close) future.
I like you list the most important step when starting a family tree as talking to parents and closest relatives. This might be fun and interesting for them as well.
Thank you for the idea for a summer project to do with my kids.
All the best.
Well, when your children do do your family history then you will be vital with their research. You can tell them about their grandparents and great grandparents. So you can give them names, dates and any interesting stories. You may also have heirlooms in your possession that you can talk about.
It can be a great summer project as you say. But if you’ve plan to do it during just one summer make sure you set boundaries to your research. For example just go as far as great grandparents, and the level of research you wish to go into. It is a great starting point though for the future. Please drop by the site when you’re ready as there will be information here that will be useful to you.
All the best.
Tracing your roots can be a great adventure for sure, amazing what you might find out about your families past. You could find out your ancestor was a doctor or lawyer, a scientist or even a bank robber.
Do you think if you found out you had a ancestor who was a criminal this would have any emotional effect on you, it does make us wonder what our ancestors passions and lives might have been like so long ago in the past.
Your ancestor could have worked as anything. You just don’t know until you start looking. What’s interesting is that their job may now not exist and their lives were quite different from how our lives are now
Wow, this sounds interesting! I didn’t know there’s help available to trace back your ancestry, it is such a great post. It would such a fun quest for the entire family to trace the lineage! I can’t wait to get to the site, Thanks for this information and good luck to you!
It sure is interesting and there is so much information out there, offline and online. Like you said the whole family can work on this together. Keep checking back for more articles
This is one of the most interesting posts I have ever come across. I like it when something new comes into my life and what you shared here is no exception. This will definitely help many people interested in learning more about their families.
All the best to you! 🙂
I am glad that you found it of interest. My family history has always been a fascination with me. I want to share that with people and help them enjoy their own ancestry.
What a great topic, I have been trying finding my dad’s real parents for a few years now as it was a sealed private adoption. All parties involved in the adoption are dead now and so is the trail. On mum’s side we actually followed the tree right back to the Tutors. Anyway just wanted to say that I found your page very interesting and I look forward to coming back soon. Cheers 🙂
Thanks so much for your kind words. Quite interesting about your mum’s side. Hopefully with more content added it will be of more interest to you. Take care and thanks again.
First of all, I would like to thank you for sharing this interesting post. Usually I do not like to read much but your website is amazing.
Nice and easy to read.
I have able to get some valuable information and I think this will be helpful for many others.
Thank you for your kind words. Over time I will be adding more content and will make the site as interesting and engaging as possible.