There are people who have specific reasons for wanting to trace their heritage. Others might just dive into the research of their family history without much thought at all.
Knowing the reasons for people searching for their ancestors can be quite a source of inspiration and support for novice genealogists. This is especially important when they hit those inevitable brick walls and roadblocks.
What motivates the larger community of genealogists can also be helpful when it comes to understanding the future of this type of research.
The question – What is genealogy? – can mean a few different things to different people. That being said, there are a few common threads that everyone shares when they look to the past. We’ll take a quick look at some of the reasons people get into this before talking about philosophical reasons for it.
The Practical Side
Here are some of the more popular reasons for people searching for their ancestors:
The validation of family stories. This allows people to determine whether family lore about their ancestors is really true.
Tracing medical conditions. Genealogy allows people to assess the risk they have of contracting genetic medical conditions.
Tracing family inheritances. To figure out if estate jewelry really is supposed to go to potential heirs.
Tracing the ownership of land. To settle questions about who owns land by locating proof of descent.
Tracing family pictures. Some people like to find out why they bear a strong resemblance to ancestors in old family pictures.
Paternity proof. There are still people who use genealogy to determine who the biological father of a child is.
Religion. Some people do this to satisfy tenets of their religion. One good example is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – or the Mormons.
History of a community. Some people use this as a method for documenting the history of a community by gaining an understanding of those families who founded and heavily influenced it.
Historical studies. To provide a bit of insight into the past by conducting a scholarly study of famous or royal families.
Tradition. Some people even do this because this is a type of epic tradition that can be passed down to their children.
This isn’t a new activity, and it isn’t isolated to a single culture. It’s a bridge across all eras and cultures. At the heart of it, genealogy satisfies people’s basic curiosity regarding:
The past – where they came from
The present – why they are in this place and time
The future – what will happen to them?
People tend to have a basic need to know where they originated from and how they got where they currently are. This means that in some way, there might be a philosophical link between religion and genealogy.
Genealogy is actually history but on a personal level. It assists us in satisfying a deep need to figure out how we all fit into the world that surrounds us. It’s more than simply a collection of individual threads from the past. It’s more of a journey of quite a few lifetimes that have been woven together through the years to form a tapestry called family.