Conducting a genealogy research is not so uncommon these days, when there seems to be a resurgence of interest in family history. It reached its peak in the 70s when the novel ‘Roots’ was published. It was written by Alex Haley, who was able to trace his African roots during the research period for the book.
What is genealogy research?
Genealogy is the study of family ancestry or lineage and family lines are presented as genealogical trees or family trees. Sometimes they are also referred to as pedigree charts. These records show the earliest or oldest known ancestor/s at the top and succeeding generations placed in lines that are either direct or collateral, depending on the individual’s relationship to that particular family member.
An early example is the genealogical record that is found in the Bible, which includes details on an individual and his sons. The only drawback is that most of these records only show male ancestors and descendants and only a few female members.
The early years of genealogy research
In primitive societies, genealogy is often established with a god, a hero or a fantastic animal as the earliest ancestor. Even the great Alexander of Macedonia traced his roots to the gods of Greece. It was not uncommon for a royal to claim a god as his grandfather. Even early Roman society was not exempt.
These claims, outrageous as they may be for modern people, helped clans and tribes to build stronger ties within families and groups. Genealogy was also a way to claim dominance over another tribe.
Early genealogical research was passed on through oral tradition but when societies began to learn how to write, records of family history began to appear. Genealogical records were important to establish rank and rank transference.
Why genealogy is important
Tracing your roots by conducting a genealogy research is a practical way of proving your ancestry, especially in situations where there are claims to wills. In case of disputes, a proof of descent is important to make sure that someone has a rightful claim.
It is important in matters requiring an heir, especially to royal titles. Tracing back a person’s family history can mean the difference between the crown and the boot. Genealogy is also used to confirm or deny legitimacy and is a very useful tool in determining diseases that have a huge impact to modern-day families. This is especially true to diseases that seem to run in the bloodline.
Genealogy research is also important to the study of history and sociology and in other cases, law. Although for most Americans, genealogy research is a personal matter and is all about knowing who you are by knowing where you came from.
Ways of conducting a genealogy research
The easiest and most practical way is questioning your parents, grandparents and other members of the family. Asking them about their ancestors is very convenient, since it will not require a lot of research. The only limitation is that they may not remember as far back as necessary or may not have been concerned about genealogy at all.
Another method of finding out about your ancestry is examining documents. These could be birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, weddings, funerals, christenings, properties, public records and newspapers. These contain irrefutable evidence of family history. You can also go to your local library and courthouse, get records from the church and villages.
You also don’t need to go far when examining documents for your genealogy research. Family books, Bibles, letters, last will and testaments are proof of family. These also hold an advantage over other documents since these will provide you an intimate look at the relationships of your ancestors.
Interviews with people who’ve had contact with little-known family members can also bring some positive results. The only disadvantage is that it will require more research, interviewing, corroboration of information provided and some travel.
Americans can trace their family records to as far back as the arrival of the settlers, as long as records are intact. If you have foreign roots, you might have a little difficulty since records may have been lost or destroyed or written in a foreign language. Unless of course, you have British roots.
The Brits have kept a good record of genealogy for research purposes and their books are an excellent source. In American shores, the Mormon church has the best written copies of documents containing genealogical data. This information is often used by members to posthumously bring their ancestors into the Mormon church.