Genealogy: An Overview

Genealogy: An Overview

WHAT IS GENEALOGY?

Genealogy is literally defined as, “A line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor.” In science, someone might study the genealogy of a type of fruit to see where it came from and how it’s changed over the years. For people, genealogy means taking a look at your family tree.

SO, WHAT’S THE POINT?

Genealogy is a fun exercise to trace your lineage and see where you and your family come from. In the world today, people have moved all over the place, so getting an idea of how your family has migrated across the globe can be an illuminating experience. Even if there aren’t any surprises, you’ll never know whether you’re descended from royalty until you check. Whether we like to admit it or not, we ascribe a bunch of meaning to our history. We want to understand ourselves, and part of that is knowing where we come from. Maybe you’ll find out that your family hails from the mountains of Switzerland, which would explain your penchant for lederhosen, yodeling, and scaling snow capped mountains. Sometimes, it’s just good to know.

NOT JUST FOR FUN

Learning about your genealogy also has some practical purposes. Many diseases are hereditary, meaning they’re passed on through genetics. Things like heart disease, obesity, and even alcoholism can be tied to your DNA. That means the more knowledge you have about your family’s history, the more power you have to manage your health. Aside from preventing diseases that you may be predisposed to, genealogy can also give you insight into things you might naturally be good at. Maybe your ancestors were really good long distance runners. That means that their genetics passed onto you and might make you a natural runner. Sometimes things are a little less predictable. For example, my family has really great mustaches, but I still can’t grow one at 30 years old. You win some and lose some.

SO HOW DO YOU GET INTO GENEALOGY?

If you’re interested in learning about your own genealogy, there are tons of resources to get you started. There are all sorts of sites that specialize in giving you your family history. Sites like Ancestry.com and Genealogy.org are great starting points. If you want to take a trip to Washington D.C., the Library of Congress has an entire reading room dedicated to genealogical research. Whether you’re looking for a fun family activity, are having an identity crisis, or you’re just bored, genealogy is a great hobby to have. Learning more about your family tree might just teach you a little bit more about yourself.  
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