Why You Should Look Up Your Family History

This is a collaborative post.

Watch any TV for long enough, and you’ll be sure to see an advert for looking up your ancestry, your family tree, your family history, your DNA. According to ABC News, genealogy is now the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, and it’s the second most visited category of websites, after pornography. It’s a billion-dollar industry that has meant the creation of profitable websites, tv shows, books and an advent of over-the-counter genetic test kits resulting in a cottage industry in DNA ancestry testing.

People have a fundamental desire to know where they came from and how they got to where they are today. Chances are many of your ancestors overcame considerable personal hardship in their lives and knowing that your ancestors had this tremendous inner strength can be a powerful motivator if you’re trying to understand your place in the world. If it were not for your ancestors, you would not be here today.

Genealogy is history on a personal level. Discovering this history helps people to satisfy a deep need to understand how they fit into the broader world around them. It is more than just a collection of single family threads passing through time but many lifetimes woven together from the past, present and the future to create one journey. Genealogy is not only now a favorite pastime, but it is also important because it lies at the heart of the human condition.

Family history is booming today as the internet and social media have meant that we have access to transcripts, high-speed indexes, and digitized images, and you can now do a lot of research from the comfort of your own home. Genealogy is an information-based activity, and in just a few hours you can achieve more than would have been possible a few years ago.

We also live in an age where many of us live in different cities, maybe even in different countries or on different continents, from where our parents or grandparents lived, let alone our ancestors from centuries gone before. We now routinely travel around the world, whether on business or for pleasure, visiting places our ancestors had probably never heard of making the history of our families far more interesting than it ever has been before.

It’s exciting to find out who has gone before you and to honor their stories. There is likely to be a history of heroes, black sheep, ordinary people, matriarchs and patriarchs, babies or children who died, and all those in the middle – they were real people, and their blood runs through your veins. You might even find out you’re related to someone like Rob Roy, the Royal Family or William The Conqueror.

Some people in your family will be interested in family history, so it’s good to preserve it for those who come after you. Kids might need to know about it for a school project, or they might have lots of questions.  

Are your children anything like you?  Are you anything like your parents? Blood is thicker than water, and when you look at your family’s past, you might be surprised at what looks back at you, and you can learn an awful lot about yourself, and it’s nice to feel like a part of something bigger than yourself.

Looking through family history can be families together through their shared history. While the whole family may not all be interested in everyone or everything, some of them are interested in someone or something. Quite often you’ll be surprised at how much people have to share themselves – a story, a document, a photo, a family artifact, or a question that can then put you on a whole new path of research. For the elderly members of your family who are suffering from memory loss, the memories from long ago are the last to fade.  While they may not remember their grandchildren’s names, they might remember their grandparents’ names.

The longer you wait to get information on your family history, your grandparents, aunts and uncles, and parents get older and people pass away. Their belongings then get scattered, and more of your history will fade into the mist.  Find out what you can from those who are still alive. Look around your house or theirs and see what has survived. You never know what you might find.

“Trees without roots fall over.”—anonymous

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