Genealogy is the study of an individual’s family and tracing their lineage back several generations. This is usually done by taking information such as one’s familial stories and going through historical records and other forms of information to come to a conclusion. As a rule, all researchers or genealogists start with the individual themselves and work backwards through their parents, then their grandparents, etc. Original and reliable sources and family context are key to properly linking an ancestor to a descendant.
Once done or the genealogist has found a sufficient amount of data for their client, the person’s heritage is laid out in the typical “tree” chart. However, some also prefer their family histories in narrative form.
Some of the documents used in searching for an individual’s family are the following:
• Birth records;
• Death records;
• Adoption records;
• Court records;
• Marriage and/or divorce records;
• Telephone directories;
• Church records;
• Medical records;
• Photographs; and
• Family stories.
However, some would say that this kind of study is circumstantial at best since there are no other ways to properly determine someone’s family tree. After all, there are so many other people that have the same last name and they may not be related at all.
Despite this though, genealogy is a very popular topic nowadays, so much that there are several websites on the Internet dedicated not only to help professionals gather data but for casual genealogists and curious people to learn more about it.
Why pursue your family history? There are a lot of reasons for wanting to know about your family. Some are genuinely curious about where they had come from, while other people feel the need to impart something about their ancestors onto the next generation. There are even those who would want to find their relatives and tracing their family trees is a good way to do so.
Possibly one of the most reliable sources of information on your family is right there in your body: DNA.
Most of us are familiar with DNA testing due to its frequent appearances in crime dramas, but a lot don’t know that it can be used to help determine one’s lineage as well. These kinds of DNA tests are called genetic genealogy tests, and tend to focus on the paternal (Y-DNA) and maternal (mtDNA) lines of a person to see if there’s a common ancestry with another person.
Other uses for genetic genealogy testing is to determine someone’s ethnic and biogeographical origins, though these tests are less common.
Getting started on your own project
Can you trace your own family tree? Yes, you can. It may take some time and dedication, but working on your own will not only save you some money but also may be rewarding in the long run.
Here are some tips to tracing your lineage:
• Always work backwards- start with yourself and your name, then your parents, and then your grandparents.
• Keep records, and ask for identification documents, diaries and even family heirlooms.
• Try to know what your last name means and where it comes from.
• Consider using a genealogy software from the Internet. They’re made especially to let people record their family data and print it out in any format they wish.
• When in need, ask a professional genealogist! They’re always happy to help someone who wants to know where they’ve come from.
• Have fun! Sometimes the journey can be more rewarding than the conclusion, especially when it’s about your family.