Monday, December 21, 2009

Why Do You Study Genealogy? Pass the Question

Over the summer I did quite a bit of running, fueled by my IPOD and ancestors in my thoughts.  The more I could focus on stories of my past, the farther I ran.  Somehow, knowing the history gave me a reason to keep going. Genealogy and uncovering past lives has given more meaning to my life. 

I truly have come to believe what my byline says:  You don't really know who you are until you know where you've been.  But not everyone feels as I do.  I have relatives who have said, "I don't look at the past, I only look forward."  And, yet, there are millions of people interested in their past.  So, I'm curious... why are you interested?  Is it medical history? Is it curiosity? Is it love for a grandparent and knowing more about her/his history?  Please let me know by posting on your blog.

Here are my reasons:
1) My grandparents lived in Norway and Italy -- far from me.  Although I regularly visited, I always felt there was something missing... something my cousins had that I did not.  I wanted to learn their history and where I really came from.  Through genealogy research, I remember my grandparents and honor their lives. 
2) I love history and the tangents I learn by studying an ancestor.  I have learned about lumber on the Glomma, the soldier's life in Sweden, living in a Salesian college in Sicily.  When someone is born in 1750, I immediately think we were colonies of England at the time.  An ancestor died or was baptized in 1865?  Well, there was the end of the civil war in the U.S.  Historic events give the dates and people I learn about so much more meaning.  And then to unfold a person's life, completely unknown at one point, is like watching a flower blossom from a bud. 
3) I am somewhat of a romantic at heart.  These people lived and loved, and I honor their lives by not forgetting them and bringing them back to life.  Don't we all want to be remembered and feel like our lives had more meaning than our short time on this planet? 
4) There are so many questions I did not get to ask my grandparents, and this is how I know them better and still have conversations with them, though they are now gone.
5) I grew up on Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.  I still like nothing better than seeking the answers to mysteries.
6) I have made new friends and met new people, some of them relatives I did not know.

Please tell me why you do it!

Me with my Norwegian grandparents.  Do you think the retro-loveseat dates me?

My Italian grandparents together.  I'm not sure, but this was probably taken in Rome in the early 60's.

As Spock likes to say: Live long and prosper. (You have to be a Trekkie to get that, by the way.)


  1. Great post Astrid, especially coming upon the end-of-year reflection that many of us bloggers do.

    I think the base set of reasons are the same for many of us with some variations. For me:

    - to check up on some family secrets or some mismatched information that never really was explained

    - from a medical/health perspective to see if there is a history of diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease and how it was categorized (senility? feeble mindedness?)

    I often say "I am a forward-looking person" but that is from a standpoint of regrets - I can't change anything I have done in the past.

    But memories, those are different. Here is a statement I'm using in an upcoming post:

    "That piece of a life is gone, and it isn't ever coming back. Choose to chase after it, blindly follow its path, and forget the life and rituals going on right now around you. Or choose to embrace its memory, wrap it around you like a colorful and warm Mom-made afghan, and make it live by telling it to others in your family."

  2. I agree with most of your reasons and the comments of Thomas, as well. I will add a couple more for your consideration.
    First, I have found even more good information by going back several more generations. Grandparents, back through at least third or fourth, also inform me a great deal about what has occurred with more recent generations, even coming down to my generation in some cases. Also, aunts and uncles at each of these generation, on both maternal and paternal lines played major roles, along with the direct line descendants.
    Second, the social history of the time and place of my ancestors played a key role in who they were and subsequently who we are. I believe it is very key element beyond the records and vital statistics of genealogy research.

    Thanks for asking. I hope others will reply, as well!

    Keep those ancestor stories coming!

    Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"