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What is Genealogy and Why Understanding it is Important

Sucheta Pradhan Feb 11, 2019
Tracing one's genealogy or lineage is interesting, and it has been listed as one of the fastest-growing hobbies in the United States.
"Our forefathers sought the wilderness, and overcame it; but the wilderness, in surrendering, entered into them, and became a part of them; and we are the heirs and the victims of that conquest and its consequences." ― Lesley Mason
Tracing one's genealogy is like solving a huge jigsaw puzzle―putting the distorted bits and pieces together to make a complete picture. Genealogy, the art and science of tracing one's ancestral roots, is an intriguing and enjoyable task, indeed.
It not only helps us know who our ancestors were, but it also helps us gather knowledge, such as where they came from, how they lived, what their occupation was, what their social status was, and so on. Moreover, it also enables us to understand who we are and why we are the way we are.
According to a study conducted by Pamela J. Drake at the California State University, genealogy is a favorite pastime of about 60% of Americans.

Importance of Genealogy

People attempt to study their family histories for several different reasons, ranging from solving puzzles to making a genuine survey of their roots. Here's why genealogy holds an important place.

Validates Family Stories and Claims

There are several stories about ancestors, which go on in families for generations. While these form part of an oral tradition, there is, more often than not, no solid ground that can prove them to be true. Furthermore, there might be several claims that a particular family may make.
For instance, there may be claims regarding the involvement of one's ancestors in important historical events, or regarding an ancestor being a famous celebrity of his/her time. A study of genealogy can help determine if such stories and claims are true or not.

Helps Trace Hereditary Medical Conditions

A study of genealogy is very helpful to trace hereditary health conditions, which are passed down through generations. One may be able to know what kind of health problems he/she may face in the future, and can plan his/her lifestyle accordingly.
Moreover, one may also be able to provide a detailed family medical history to the doctor so that proper preventive measures can be taken.

Enables Better Understanding of History

It needs to be noted that history does not pertain only to what we study in schools and colleges. It also encompasses each and every event from the past, which was responsible for shaping our family.
Genealogy is a study across the dimensions of time and space, and hence, its study tends to inform us about the various important historical epochs that shaped the lives of our ancestors, and eventually, of ourselves.

Helps Connect with Lost Relatives

The study of genealogy is important, in that it enables us to trace our extended families, and relatives we didn't know existed. It enables us to reestablish our broken family ties, and bring our family back together. And, it is quite possible that the people we have been knowing for years as our close friends may, in fact, be our own, long-lost relatives.

Testifies the Same Bloodline

The record of family genealogy helps potential heirs of the family present a solid evidence with respect to their connection with the family's bloodline. It helps them inherit, not only the family's heritage, but also its property.

Helps Find One's Biological Parents

In case a child is adopted by someone, a proper genealogical study of the child's family may help identify and trace his/her real parents and/or family history. Genealogical records can also work in a reverse fashion, which means that even parents can trace their biological children on the basis of the study of the line of descent.

Rebuilds Community History

Carrying out a genealogical study enables a person to determine and understand the social status of his/her family, and the contribution that the family made for the development of their community. Such a study helps in understanding one's family with respect to the community and vice versa.

Satisfaction of Religious Tenets

There are certain religions and ideologies, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a.k.a. the Mormon Church, in which it is mandatory for all adherents to maintain their genealogies.
Moreover, there are also numerous cultures around the world in which ancestor worship is prevalent. It, therefore, becomes essential to know one's antecedents.

Legacy for Future Generations

Whether in the form of a well-documented family history or merely a family tree, a record of one's genealogy is always something to be treasured.
It is, indeed, overwhelming to see how new people go on adding to the genealogical chart, and how the family tree goes on growing.

A Good Activity for Children

Tracing the genealogy is an interesting activity in which people from all age groups can indulge. It is especially good for children as it involves a lot of detective work and attention to detail.
At a very young age, children can learn various techniques and nitty-gritty of research, as they would have to indulge in tasks, such as interviewing the relatives, looking through archives, and so on.
Irrespective of why a person takes up the task of tracing his/her genealogy, it always turns out to be an engaging job. Such a quest never leaves one dissatisfied as he/she is always in for a number of surprises as well as shocks at every step.
After all, no matter how badly you may have hated history while in school, doing some detective work and digging out the past is still very exciting. There is absolutely no doubt that studying our lineage not only satisfies our basic curiosity, but also tends to answer the most fundamental questions of life regarding our past, present, and future.