Insight Article - Genealogy

Insight Article - Genealogy

19th Tue, Oct, 2021

Genealogy (from Greek: γενεαλογία genealogia "study of family trees") is the study of families, family history, and the tracing of their lineages. Genealogists use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives. The field of family history is broader than genealogy, and covers not just lineage but also family and community history and biography.

The record of genealogical work may be presented as a "genealogy," a "family history," or a "family tree." In the narrow sense, a "genealogy" or a "family tree" traces the descendants of one person, whereas a "family history" traces the ancestors of one person, but the terms are often used interchangeably. A family history may include additional biographical information, family traditions, and the like. 

The pursuit of family history and origins tends to be shaped by several motives, including the desire to carve out a place for one's family in the larger historical picture, a sense of responsibility to preserve the past for future generations, and self-satisfaction in accurate storytelling. Genealogy research is also performed for scholarly or forensic purposes. 

There are many amateur genealogists amongst us, typically pursuing our own ancestry and that of our spouses. But, there is also a professional body of genealogists out there performing incredible work. Professional genealogists conduct research for others, publish books on genealogical methods, teach, or produce their own databases. They may work for companies that provide software or produce materials of use to other professionals and to amateurs. Both try to understand not just where and when people lived but also their lifestyles, biographies, and motivations. This often requires—or leads to—knowledge of antiquated laws, old political boundaries, migration trends, and historical socioeconomic or religious conditions.

Why do we engage in genealogy? 

Individuals and professional organisations conduct genealogical research for a number of reasons: 

Personal or medical interest - private individuals research genealogy out of curiosity about their heritage. This curiosity can be particularly strong among those whose family histories were lost or unknown due to, for example, adoption or separation from family through divorce, death, or other situations. In addition to simply wanting to know more about who they are and where they came from, individuals may research their genealogy to learn about any hereditary diseases in their family history. 

Community or religious obligation - In communitarian societies, our identity is defined as much by our kin network as by individual achievement, and the question "Who are you?" would be answered by a description of father, mother, and tribe. Family history plays a part in the practice of some religious belief systems. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has a doctrine of baptism for the dead, which necessitates that members of that faith engage in family history research. 

Establishing identity - Royal families, both historically and in modern times, keep records of their genealogies in order to establish their right to rule and determine who will be the next sovereign. For centuries in various cultures, genealogy has been a source of political and social status. 

Some countries and indigenous tribes allow individuals to obtain citizenship based on their genealogy. In Ireland and in Greece, for example, an individual can become a citizen if one of their grandparents was born in that country, regardless of their own or their parents' birthplace. 

Legal and forensic research - Lawyers involved in probate cases do genealogy to locate heirs of property. Investigators/Detectives may perform genealogical research using DNA evidence to identify victims of homicides or perpetrators of crimes. 

Scholarly research - Historians and geneticists may carry out genealogical research to gain a greater understanding of specific topics in their respective fields, and some may employ professional genealogists in connection with specific aspects of their research. They also publish their research in peer-reviewed journals. 

Whatever your interest in genealogy and to whatever depth your research goes, it is undoubtedly a hugely important and fascinating subject!  Check out businesses engaged in such work at