Chapter 2 : Why You Need To Explore Your Past

It seems simple to understand why history is important.  There are countless times that history repeats itself.  We are face with the same choices that we were just a handful of years ago.  Did we learn from our mistakes or will we make the same ones over and over again? 

Whether you believe in a Higher Power or not, there is still the question of what could have happened to those that are in your past.  After all, don’t you want to know who was in your family tree?

Could you be the descendant of one of the Kings or Queens of England?  Perhaps you have an ancestor that was a war hero in the Revolutionary War.  Perhaps the past isn’t as pretty with ancestors that died in famines, illnesses or strife, only to save their children that you would eventually come from.

The “what if” type questions are out there and people in general are curious about what it means for them.  If you want to know what your chances of learning more about your past you have to give genealogy a chance.  You have to try to learn more.

The good news is that it’s quite possible for many people to learn more about those in their family trees.  The quest starts with understanding the process of genealogy and then learning how to get started on your own journey to learn as much as you can about those that have come before you in your family tree.

Defining Genealogy

Genealogy is the study of family ancestry.  It is the study and tracing of the family’s pedigrees.  During the process of genealogy, you will collect the names of your relatives, including those that are deceased and will then establish their relationship to each other. 

This will include exploring various levels of your family tree as well including primary and secondary family members.  You will use both documentation and word of mouth to help you to develop your family tree.  The goal is to ultimately build a family tree that includes all of your relatives as far back as you would like to take it, or at least as far as you can take it.

Getting a family history of your family is a bit different.  In genealogy, you technically only will get the names of your family members, creating a tree.

But, with a family history, you will take this one step farther by including information about each of those people.  Learning more about the lives they lived is part of getting your family history. 

Sometimes, this can be done at the same time as creating a family tree, other times it is a bit more complex because of how difficult it can be to learn this information.  The goal is to gather as much information about your ancestors as you can to better understand your family’s history in both public and private life.

The Genealogist

One of the many people that you may find at your side during the process of understanding your family history is that of your genealogist.  A Genealogist is someone that does the work of genealogy, rather he or she collects the data that is later used to piece together family trees and family histories.

If you use a professional genealogist to track your family’s history, you will hire them to do several key things for you.  They will work to uncover your past.

Their job is to get as many oral histories and preserve your family’s history as much as possible.  They do this first through living relatives that you have.  Then, they push through various tools to gain information on your ancestors, those that are no longer alive.

The genealogist works to understand as much as possible about those that they are uncovering.  This often means more than just knowing their names, but also learning about their lifestyle, their motivations in their lives and even piecing together a biography for the family. 

The benefit of using a genealogist for your study of your own family tress is that they have experience (or should at least!) in the process.  This means that they have the necessary information to work through old laws, political boundaries that were once in place, immigration trends and historical information to find the answers to your family tree’s questions.

Yet, you don’t have to use a genealogist for your journey into your family’s past.  You can gain information about your family in a number of ways.  While it may be easier for you to hand over your family’s information and let someone else do the work, this can be costly.

There is also the need for doing your own exploring of information about your family.  Many people go through the journey through learning about their family by exploring the details that are out there, gathering facts and understanding the lives that these people lived.  That unique experience of uncovering information and learning from your ancestor’s past is one journey you may want to do on your own.

The good news is that there is a lot of help for those that are considering a search through their family history available right on the web.  You don’t have to go through the process on your own and ending up hitting a dead-end that makes you give up. 

You can use a number of excellent tools that are available to you on the web.  It is completely up to you to determine the right road to take through the process of uncovering your family tree.  In fact, in later chapters we’ll talk about tools of software that you can use too.

But, we’ll assume here that you do want to do this journey on your own or you want further information.  For that, let’s explore the process of genealogy.

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