Why Do We Do Genealogy? Your Input Needed!

I think it’s important to reflect on why we do this thing called genealogy.  Take a moment before reading further and get ideas of what is important to you about our discipline. 

I identified five factors that are relevant to me.  The first thing that comes to my mind is discovery.   Genealogy unlocks events involving real people whose decisions impacted me personally and continue to do so, even today.  Think of your Gateway Ancestors.  Their choice to uproot and start a new life on a new continent directly influenced who you became.  That emigration may have occurred 400+ years ago or much more recently.  Why did they come?  Oh sure, for a better life, duh!  No, I want to discover what was the final event, the straw that broke the camel’s back, that made them say, “Enough already, we’re out of here!” 
Discovery leads me to think about another reason why our work is important.  Perhaps it was best said by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” [1]  Let’s not look at the big historical picture but instead, narrow it down to your own family.  If your parents are deceased you most likely know what was the cause of death.   If not your parents, think of your grandparents.  It may have been due to lifestyle and that knowledge can be important in regards to your own health. You can make a change by simply knowing what had been.  Very powerful!
Remembering leads me to honoring those that came before us.  I have a much more privileged life due to my ancestors’ resolve and I appreciate their gift to me immensely. Since I can't personally let them know I write about their impact and record their contributions in my public tree.  It's small, really, considering how much they did. 
I am, by nature, an impatient person.  I get an idea and run with it.  Genealogy is the antithesis of that nature. Patience is critical in this field.  Brick walls do come tumbling down and like earthquakes, there's no way to predict when that will occur.  
The last factor for me is that genealogy is empowering.  When I learn about events that my ancestor's lived through I am reminded that the small trials and tribulations that I experience aren't so awful.  I live in Florida and our air conditioner is on it's last leg.  It is very very warm as a I write this, uncomfortably so.  Being warm is so unimportant compared to fires, epidemics, and the hot topic of discrimination that my predecessors experienced I'm almost thankful it's just a bad a/c unit in my life. Knowing that I come from a long line of strong individuals enables me to be more confident in knowing I can stand what life throws at me.

On a different note, I'm looking forward to my upcoming road trip to Ft. Lauderdale to attend the National Genealogical Society's Conference that begins on Wednesday.  If you're planning on attending look for me and say hello - I'll be wearing a yellow button that says, "Ask Me" and you'll find me answering questions and serving as a room monitor.  If you aren't able to make it, many of the lectures will be live streamed so visit the National Genealogical Society's website for registration so you can view them.  

Due to my upcoming travel, I'll not blog on Thursday as I typically do but hope to resume next Sunday - same time, same place.  Happy Hunting!

[1] George Santayana.  The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense. Scribner’s, 1905: 284. 


  1. I do genealogy research to discover those who came before me and made me what I am and because of a love of history.

  2. I love researching my ancestors because I want to know them personally. The people I've learned about so far are like friends to me now. Their lives inspire me. And also all the reasons you shared above! I love hearing others' answers to this question.


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