Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Is Genealogy Important?

The reasons for tracing one's family history likely varies from one person to the next.  The things that inspire me are likely different from the things that excite you.  But regardless of who you are and where you are in life, below are some of the reasons why you should become passionate about genealogy... that is, if you aren't already completely addicted:

  • Sheer Curiosity:  Maybe you've never heard very much about your family's past?  Maybe you really want to know if Uncle Abraham was arrested for bootlegging (as family lore would have it) or if Aunt Mabel's family really did come from Ireland?  Maybe you'd like to know if a celebrity or other famous ancestor lurks in your family tree?  Whatever spurs on your curiosity, you'll never find an answer to that nagging question if you don't start looking.
  • To Preserve the Memory a Relative:  Perhaps you recently lost a parent or grandparent?  One way to honor that person's memory would be to research their family history (which is your family history, too!)  If family was important to that individual, learning more about their past is a way to further connect with them.  As an example, my grandmother (who passed away 10 years ago) was very dedicated to her family and preserving family's heirlooms.  Unfortunately, I was too young and too disinterested when she was alive to ask her about her family.  By researching my grandmother's lineage, not only have I been able to learn about her heritage, but I feel more connected to her than ever before because I knew that honoring family was so important to her.
  • To Teach Your Children:  It doesn't matter how old your children are --  Whether they have left the nest or are still in diapers, tracing your family history is an important way to educate them about where they come from (and I'm not talking about the birds and the bees here).  Teaching your children about your roots can strengthen family ties and encourage family bonding.  Create a compiled family history.  It can be a priceless heirloom for your children that can later be passed on to their children.  Teaching your children about their roots can also help them easily relate to history by making it personal.  Learning about World War I might seem a tad boring to a kid in school, but by teaching that child how Great-Grandpa Joe got drafted in 1918, and was sent to France to fight might just make that child become a little more interested in history. 
  • For Health Reasons:  It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but one reason that some people choose to get involved in genealogy is to trace their medical history.  Death certificates, obituaries and funeral home records can hold key pieces of information.  By tracing your family history, you might discover a pattern in the cause of death for some of your relatives.  For example, learning that several of your ancestors died from a specific form of cancer or a rare disease might make you more inclined to stay on top of those physicals or seek out a specific screening test that you otherwise wouldn't.
  • To Connect with Living Relatives:  Tracing your family history can open you up to a whole other family you didn't even know existed.  The father back your research takes you, the more descendants (and living cousins) you will discover.  Not only can you connect with new relatives and form new relationships, but you might even discover that someone you've known your whole life is - in fact - related to you. 

  • To Join a Lineage Society:  Have you ever wanted to join a lineage society, like the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the Confederacy, or the Colonial Dames?  Well, in order to become a member in any hereditary society, you much first trace your lineage to find a qualifying ancestor.  For the Daughters of the American Revolution, you much prove that you are of direct descent from a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  For the Sons of the Confederacy, you must find an ancestor who rendered service to the Confederacy during the Civil War.  There are numerous lineage societies in existence that span many topics, besides military history.  These topics range from Presidential Families and Early Settlers to Scottish Clans and Royal Descent.  These groups not only work to preserve history but are also heavily involved in community service, from sponsoring scholarships to shipping items overseas to those on active military duty.

Whatever your reasons for being interested in genealogy, one thing is certain:  knowing about your family history is empowering.  Finding your roots and discovering your own story can be a real adventure.  So, don't procrastinate any further.  Get started today.

1 comment:

  1. Jessica,

    Thank you for your comments about why genealogy is important. You are right on target. I also love genealogy and have tried for years to get my loved ones interested. The information is about who you are and fills in one of the most interesting puzzles of all time; "the whys".