The Face of Genealogy

Recently there was a small blurb in the LA Weekly about the upcoming SCGS Jamboree . Unfortunately the blurb wasn't that great, but worse was the picture chosen to depict the event, and genealogy in general. It was a picture of two toothless boys and some comment about inbreeding.You can view the picture at Geneabloggers, as the LA Weekly has since replaced it with a more suitable clip. 

My thoughts are that someone was either trying to be funny, or that person really doesn't get what genealogy is all about. I submitted a letter to the editor as so many others did, but I also submitted the following "article" which I hope they choose to feature. 


Genealogy: By Angela Kraft of Leaves of Heritage Genealogy

What is it?
There are several definitions for the word genealogy, but in my opinion, number four from Merriam-webster.com sums it up best; an account of the origin and historical development of something. When a genealogist researches your family and finds your ancestors for you, he or she is trying to account for the origin and historical development of your family. Learning information from the various records and verbal histories of our ancestors can truly help us understand the lives they lived. In doing so, we can develop a deeper understanding of who we are today.

But genealogy is not just about learning the names of our ancestors. It is about the geography and history in which they lived. For instance, growing up in the rural South during the Civil War is going to have a profoundly different effect on a family than if they had lived in the North during the War of 1812, or in the West in 1849. The land was different, the views of the times were different, and the mix of cultures was different. But knowing where our families lived, and what the times were like during that period in history, helps us know just what they struggled with in order for us to be here today.

Sadly, the misconception that stands in the minds of most people unfamiliar with genealogy is that it is something only “old fogeys” study. This is simply not true. While there is a large population of older folks who do love family history research, a survey done by Myles Proudfoot1 revealed that the average age of participants was between 47 and 57 years of age. Being that I’m 36, I don’t think these ages qualify as old fogey material. Besides, what’s wrong with old fogeys anyway? I know some really cool ones!

Today’s genealogy is a techno-savvy and genetically advancing field. Get your DNA tested and you can discover if your family’s tale of “Indian” heritage is true. Or better yet, see all the people whom you share ancestry with, as well as the migration patterns of the people in your lineage2. Go online and search endless records to see where your people lived and what they were doing.3 Use the cloud computing techniques that Dick Eastman and Thomas MacEntee have talked about, using things like DropBox and EverNote. Don’t know what cloud computing is? See, we genealogists are cool like that!

Genealogy today offers webinars and podcasts. What are these? Webinars are web based seminars where you can learn online by watching classes or presentations. Roots Magic, Legacy Family Tree, Family Search, Ancestry.com,  and Southern California Genealogical Society are just a few providers of free or low cost genealogy webinars. Genealogical podcasts share tips and information about developments in the field, as well as interviews with leaders in the industry. They can be downloaded directly from the host’s website, or usually from i-Tunes.com. Some of my favorites to listen to are Geneabloggers Radio, Lisa Louise Cooke on both Genealogy Gems and Family Tree Magazine, and the Genealogy Guys.

Did you know that Google is a treasure trove of genealogical help? Just ask Lisa Louise Cooke at Genealogy Gems or Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers. They will teach you how to use Google Earth to map out your family’s migration and hometowns, use Google Books for historical texts that may even name your ancestors, or use the timelines, i-Google gadgets, and so much more. Told you we are a techno-savvy bunch!

There are conferences, and societies, and online distance learning, all geared to help you in your quest to become a knowledgeable researcher. Some things require payment, but many are free resources. It has never been a better time to do genealogy than it is now.

Why is it important?
Have you ever wondered why you are the way you are? Maybe no one else in your immediate family understands why you do the things you do. Then one day you discover someone in your family tree who was just like you. That would explain a lot, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it also make you feel like you fit in the family a little bit better?

Side story; I have a friend whom I am doing his genealogy for. I came across a lady who was working the same line as his, and asked if I could share a picture she had. When I passed the picture along to my friend, he forwarded it on to his dad. Without reading what his son had written about the picture, the dad sent it out to his friends and family saying “This guy could be my relative!” And in fact he was! It was a picture of his great grandfather from the early 1900s. This, to me is fantastic, to see the family resemblance. Something that wouldn’t have happened were it not for genealogical research.

What about the family heirlooms that have been passed down, generation to generation? Wouldn’t you want to know about the people who owned or made those things? Don’t you ever wonder about the past and the people whom you came from?

For me, history was never exciting…until I began doing family history research. For the first time I was able to connect myself through an ancestor to the things that had happened in the past. I was able to find interest in the Civil War because my ancestor fought in it and was shot without trial by the enemy. Tragic, but exciting! And the brother of my direct descendant signed the Declaration of Independence! Now I’m interested; now I am connected. All thanks to genealogy.

All genealogists begin doing research for different reasons. Mine was due to the loss of my mother at a young age, and growing up not having known her family. But all of us, who do it, love it. So if you’re not interested in doing your own family history research, but you are curious about whence you came, find one of us. Some will do it for free, others for a fee. Either way, most of us adhere to strict standards4 which guarantee that the information we find for you will be accurate. Who knows what fabulous history is waiting to fall out of your family tree!
3 Though some sites require paid subscriptions, many items of interest can be researched for free.                


And, by the way, this is my face of genealogy and the whole reason I began my research:
Isn't she lovely?



Happy tree climbing!

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