What is Genealogy?
Genealogy is the name given to the study of a person or family’s’ descendents from any number of ancestors. This activity may entail the gathering of names of relatives and ancestors, who may be living or deceased, and even some useful details regarding their lives. The familial connections of these relatives are traced in order to determine relationships between them and in doing so a cohesive family tree can be established.
There is some blurring of definitions between the terms Genealogy and Family History, but the latter term will generally refer to a more detailed report or accounting of relatives lives and personal history while Genealogy more often deals with the bloodlines or familial relationships between relatives.
For most people, the primary purpose in undertaking the tracing of family roots stems from an interest in determining their families or their own origins. Many people undertake this research effort as a hobby and many families have been able to establish a fairly thorough family tree based on the efforts of a resourceful relative. There is certainly nothing wrong with this and you may find it an enjoyable, if somewhat challenging, activity.
However because Genealogy may be used to serve a specific legal or financial pursuit, many people turn to professional Genealogical services for their needs. In many legal proceedings, which require Genealogical documentation, there are established standards in place which ensure that the process is done accurately and thoroughly.
Genealogists may be called upon to utilise many different sources in their studies to ensure the most comprehensive coverage of the family's lineage as possible. They may speak to first hand eyewitnesses or people who actually knew the deceased relative for example. Of course, more often than not, these people may actually be relatives of the deceased, but that may not always be the case. Even people who are not related to the family in any way can be valuable sources of information.
Genealogists may also peruse primary records of the individuals in question such as birth certificates, marriage records, as well as burial and church records. If the family in question has a written account of their family history, that could prove to be very informative as well.
It would be helpful for any Genealogist to have adequate knowledge of the social, religious and political norms of the time period around which his subjects lived. This facility will aid in unraveling tangled bloodlines complicated by marriage traditions and naming conventions among many other things. Knowledge, or at least some familiarity with past laws, former political and geographical borders, immigration practices and historical conditions of the time will help immensely in uncovering clues which may not be apparent to the casual researcher.
Realistically though, Genealogy can be a lifelong pursuit with many twists and turns and often frustrating dead ends. Not all such pursuits will end in a comprehensive and neatly connected family tree, but it will surely uncover many interesting information and will help you know your family and yourself much better.
Original Authors: Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: Nicola Norfolk
Updated On: 06/02/2007