been asked several times why I research my family history
why genealogy is even important. I have been considering an appropriate
response for a while now and finally came up with one I thought
was good enough to post.
answering why the study of genealogy is important though, I have
to first tackle why history, itself, is important. In school we
take history classes from the earliest grades all the way through
to college. Why? We study history to understand societies and
the people who belong in those societies. Here in America, it
is important for one to understand the American Revolution in
order to grasp why we celebrate the 4th of July, why we so often
cite the Bill of Rights, or why we hold such an abstract idea
as freedom on such a high pedestal.
of history also helps us to identify the changes within a society
that led it to being what it is in the present. How can one understand
why the South is different from the rest of the country and why
its culture is unique, without first knowing about the events
leading up to and resulting from the Civil War?
very good reason we study history is because those who forget
the past are doomed to repeat it. We look at the past under
a moral microscope, so we can learn from the failures and atrocities
of the societies from around the world. Once we understand what
led up to the enslavement of millions of Africans, the Trail of
Tears, and the holocaust we can take steps as a society
to make sure those things do not happen again.
It is easy
to see why the study of history is important, so why is it so
difficult for some people to see the importance of the study of
genealogy? Genealogy research is often written off as being a
hobby something with little to no importance to the outside
world. This view point of my lifes passion has often bothered
me, so today Id like to set the record straight.
start with the more talked about reasons the study of genealogy
is important. The study of genealogy is important, because it
can help an individual identify with their family, culture, and
heritage. By taking a look at the roots of ones family tree
they can see why their family belongs to a particular faith,
make them appreciate a family name that has been passed down through
the generations, or understand how they came to live in a certain
area. These things can all give a person the feeling of being
bonded to their family as well as give them a better understanding
of their own identity.
highly discussed reason for the importance of genealogy is medical
history. By studying the medical records and deaths of those in
ones family a picture begins to emerge of what a
person may be at medical risk for. Cancer, strokes, and heart
disease all rank high among the list of things that tend to take
the lives of my family members. I am also aware that depression
has played a large role in the history of my family by knowing
we have high suicide rates and a lot of individuals who were hospitalized
in various mental health facilities. Its also in this way
that I know how high my risk is of suffering from dementia later
in life. Having this kind of information can help one lead their
life in a manner catered to optimizing their own health and could
ultimately save their life or the life of a loved one.
also the legal aspect to the study of genealogy, which is no longer
as important as it once was (but it still helps from time to time).
Have you ever considered what happens to a persons belongings
when they die intestate without a living heir? I, personally,
have granted an attorney permission to view my Ancestry.com family
tree to help them find living family members of an elderly relative
who passed away in this manner.
Ive listed above are all what I consider to be very good
reasons that genealogy is important, but those arent reasons
genealogy should be academically accepted. I started this post
by explaining the importance of history to academics
let me explain why I believe genealogy is just as important:
is an overall look at how the events of the past created, affected,
and changed a society. The study of genealogy or family history
(Im using the terms interchangeably here yes, Im
aware that there is a difference) is a look at the individuals
who partook in the events of history and how those events affected
their lives. The study of ones genealogy helps one to further
grasp the events of history. It is easy to remember the Spanish
Influenza Epidemic of 1918 killed thousands of people here in
America, but one can understand the true severity of it when theyve
pulled up dozens of death certificates showing how this epidemic
effected their own family. We all know that slavery is a mortifying
truth that once played a role in the daily lives of Americas
citizens, but it is easier to sympathize with the plight of a
slave after reading the journals of those who survived to see
freedom. In a way, the study of genealogy is a form of micro-history
and it can bolster ones understanding of past events.
Better Question than Why is Genealogy Important
believe the study of genealogy and family history is very important.
I cant understand the opposing view-point and Id like
to ask those who write genealogists and their research off so
easily: Why isnt genealogy important? Can you give me a
legitimate reason that my research is trivial enough to labeled
as a hobby? Can you give me even one good reason that the study
of the people who played roles in historys events are any
less important than the events themselves?