Genealogy (from γενεαλογία from γενεά , "generation" and λόγος , "knowledge"), also known as family history, is the study of Family and the tracing of their Kinship and history. Genealogists use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and Pedigree chart of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives.
The pursuit of family history and origins tends to be shaped by several motives, including the desire to carve out a place for one's family in the larger historical picture, a sense of responsibility to preserve the past for future generations, and a sense of self-satisfaction in accurate storytelling.Ronald Bishop, "In the Grand Scheme of Things: An Exploration of the Meaning of Genealogical Research," Journal of Popular Culture 2008 41(3): 393–412.
Genealogists sometimes specialize in a particular group, e.g. a Scottish clan; a particular surname, such as in a one-name study; a small community, e.g. a single village or parish, such as in a one-place study; or a particular, often famous, person. Bloodlines of Salem is an example of a specialized family-history group. It welcomes members who can prove descent from a participant of the Salem Witch Trials or who simply choose to support the group.
Genealogists and family historians often join family history societies, where novices can learn from more experienced researchers. Such societies generally serve a specific geographical area. Their members may also index records to make them more accessible, and engage in advocacy and other efforts to preserve public records and cemeteries. Some schools engage students in such projects as a means to reinforce lessons regarding immigration and history. Other benefits include family medical histories with families with serious medical conditions that are hereditary.
The terms "genealogy" and "family history" are often used synonymously, but some offer a slight difference in definition. The Society of Genealogists, while also using the terms interchangeably, describes genealogy as the "establishment of a Pedigree by extracting evidence, from valid sources, of how one generation is connected to the next" and family history as "a biographical study of a genealogically proven family and of the community and country in which they lived". The term "family history" may be more popular in Europe, "genealogy" more popular in the United States.
Family history plays a part in the practice of some religious belief systems. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has a doctrine of baptism for the dead, which necessitates that members of that faith engage in family history research.
In societies such as Australia or the United States, there was by the 20th-century growing pride in the pioneers and nation-builders. Establishing descent from these was, and is, important to such groups as the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Modern family history explores new sources of status, such as celebrating the resilience of families that survived generations of poverty or slavery, or the success of families in integrating across racial or national boundaries. Some family histories even emphasize links to celebrity criminals, such as the bushranger Ned Kelly in Australia.
The growing interest in family history in the media coupled with easier access to online records has allowed those who are curious to do so to start investigating their ancestry. This curiosity can be particularly strong among those whose family histories were lost or unknown due to, for example, adoption or separation from family, perhaps as a result of Grief.
Some family trees have been maintained for considerable periods. The family tree of Confucius has been maintained for over 2,500 years and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest extant family tree. The fifth edition of the Confucius Genealogy was printed in 2009 by the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee (CGCC).
With the advent of the Internet, the number of resources readily accessible to genealogists has vastly increased, resulting in an explosion of interest in the topic. According to some sources, genealogy is one of the most popular topics on the Internet. Genealogy.com: Recent Maritz Poll Shows Explosion in Popularity of Genealogy The Internet has become not only a major source of data for genealogists, but also of education and communication.
The Genealogical Society of Utah, founded in 1894, later became the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The department's research facility, the Family History Library, which has developed the most extensive genealogical record-gathering program in the world, was established to assist in tracing family lineages for special religious ceremonies which LDS adherents believe will seal family units together for eternity. LDS members believe that this fulfilled a biblical prophecy stating that the prophet Elijah would return to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers."James B. Allen et al. "Hearts Turned To The Fathers," BYU Studies 1994–1995 34(2): 4–392 There is a network of LDS Family HIstory Centers all over the country and around the world, where volunteers assist the public with tracing their ancestors. Introduction to LDS Family History Centers Accessed 18 Feb 2015. Brigham Young University offers bachelor' /ref>
The American Society of Genealogists is the scholarly honorary society of the U.S. genealogical field. Founded by John Insley Coddington, Arthur Adams, and Meredith B. Colket, Jr., in December 1940, its membership is limited to 50 living fellows. ASG publishes The Genealogist, a scholarly journal of genealogical research semi-annually since 1980. Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, who bear the post-nominal acronym FASG, have written some of the most notable genealogical materials of the last half-century.
Some of the most notable scholarly American genealogical journals are The American Genealogist, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and The Genealogist.5 Genealogical Journals You Should Be Reading David L. Greene, "Scholarly Genealogical Journals in America, The American Genealogist 61 (1985-86): 116-20.
Genealogists begin their research by collecting family documents and stories. This creates a foundation for documentary research, which involves examining and evaluating historical records for evidence about ancestors and other relatives, their kinship ties, and the events that occurred in their lives. As a rule, genealogists begin with the present and work backward in time. Historical, social, and family context is essential to achieving correct identification of individuals and relationships. Source citation is also important when conducting genealogical research.Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007). To keep track of collected material, family group sheets and are used. Formerly handwritten, these can now be generated by genealogical software.
A genealogical DNA test allows two individuals to find the probability that they are, or are not, related within an estimated number of generations. Individual genetic test results are collected in databases to match people descended from a relatively recent common ancestor. See, for example, the Molecular Genealogy Research Project. These tests are limited to either the patrilineal or the matrilineal line.
On the informal side are the many popular and useful Internet forum such as Rootschat and mailing lists on particular surnames, regions, and other topics. These forums can be used to try to find relatives, request record lookups, obtain research advice, and much more.
Many genealogists participate in loosely organized projects, both online and off. These collaborations take numerous forms. Some projects prepare name indexes for records, such as probate cases, and publish the indexes, either online or off. These indexes can be used as to locate original records. Other projects transcribe or abstract records. Offering record lookups for particular geographic areas is another common service. Volunteers do record lookups or take photos in their home areas for researchers who are unable to travel.
Those looking for a structured volunteer environment can join one of thousands of genealogical societies worldwide. Most societies have a unique area of focus, such as a particular surname, ethnicity, geographic area, or descendancy from participants in a given historical event. Genealogical societies are almost exclusively staffed by volunteers and may offer a broad range of services, including maintaining libraries for members' use, publishing newsletters, providing research assistance to the public, offering classes or seminars, and organizing record preservation or transcription projects.
Most programs can generate basic kinship charts and reports, allow for the import of digital photographs and the export of data in the GEDCOM format (short for GEnealogical Data COMmunication) so that data can be shared with those using other genealogy software. More advanced features include the ability to restrict the information that is shared, usually by removing information about living people out of privacy concerns; the import of sound files; the generation of family history books, web pages and other publications; the ability to handle same sex marriages and Illegitimacy; searching the Internet for data; and the provision of research guidance.
Programs may be geared toward a specific religion, with fields relevant to that religion, or to specific nationalities or ethnic groups, with source types relevant for those groups.
To keep track of their citizens, governments began keeping public records of persons who were neither royal family nor nobility. In England and Germany, for example, such record keeping started with parish registers in the 16th century.Thea Miller, "The German registry: The evolution of a recordkeeping model," Archival Science Volume 3, Number 1 / March, 2003 pp 43–62; Michael Drake, "An Elementary Exercise in Parish Register Demography," Economic History Review Vol. 14, No. 3 (1962), pp. 427–445 in JSTOR As more of the population was recorded, there were sufficient records to follow a family. Major life events, such as births, marriages, and deaths, were often documented with a license, permit, or report. Genealogists locate these records in local, regional or national offices or and extract information about family relationships and recreate Chronology of persons' lives.
In China, India and other Asian countries, are used to record the names, occupations, and other information about family members, with some books dating back hundreds or even thousands of years. In the eastern state of Bihar, there is a written tradition of genealogical records among Maithil Brahmins and Karna Kayasthas called "Panjis", dating to the 12th century CE. Even today these records are consulted prior to marriages.
In Ireland, genealogical records were recorded by professional families of senchaidh (historians) until as late as the mid-17th century. Perhaps the most outstanding example of this genre is Leabhar na nGenealach/The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, by Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh (d. 1671), published in 2004.
FamilySearch's website includes many resources for genealogists: a FamilyTree database, historical records, "Thanks A Billion," FamilySearch Press Release. Retrieved 4-22-2013; "News and Press: Official FamilySearch.org News and Press Releases," FamilySearch. Retrieved 2013-5-26. digitized family history books, "FamilySearch Family History Books Reaches a New Milestone," FamilySearch, 5 August 2013. Retrieved 2013-8-5. resources and indexing for African American genealogy such as slave and bank records, and a Family History Research Wiki containing research guidance articles. "Research Wiki," FamilySearch. Retrieved 2013-5-26; FamilySearch Wiki contributors, "Research Outlines," FamilySearch Wiki. Retrieved 2013-5-26.
For example, after the 72-year legal limit for releasing personal information for the United States Census was reached in 2012, genealogical groups cooperated to index the 132 million residents registered in the 1940 United States Census.
In many cultures, the name of a person refers to the family to which he or she belongs. This is called the family name, surname, or last name. are names that identify an individual based on the father's name. For example, Marga Olafsdottir is Marga, daughter of Olaf, and Olaf Thorsson is Olaf, son of Thor. Many cultures used patronymics before surnames were adopted or came into use. The Dutch in New York, for example, used the patronymic system of names until 1687 when the advent of English rule mandated surname usage. In Iceland, patronymics are used by a majority of the population.Surnames made their way into the language in the 19th and 20th century, but are not widely used. In order to protect the patronymics system, in Iceland it is forbidden by law to introduce a new surname. In Denmark and Norway patronymics and farm names were generally in use through the 19th century and beyond, though surnames began to come into fashion toward the end of the 19th century in some parts of the country. Not until 1856 in DenmarkAn earlier law was in effect in 1828, but was largely ignored in the rural areas. and 1923 in Norway were there laws requiring surnames.
The transmission of names across generations, marriages and other relationships, and immigration may cause difficulty in genealogical research. For instance, women in many cultures have routinely used their spouse's surnames. When a woman remarried, she may have changed her name and the names of her children; only her name; or changed no names. Her birth name (maiden name) may be reflected in her children's middle names; her own middle name; or dropped entirely.E. A. Wrigley, English population history from family reconstitution, 1580–1837 (1997); Catherine Quantin et al., "Which are the best identifiers for record linkage?," Informatics for Health and Social Care 2004, Vol. 29, No. 3-4, Pages 221–227 Children may sometimes assume stepparent, foster parent, or adoptive parent names. Because official records may reflect many kinds of surname change, without explaining the underlying reason for the change, the correct identification of a person recorded identified with more than one name is challenging. Immigrants to America often Americanized their names.Marc Picard, "Genealogical Evidence and the Americanization of European Family Names," Names: American Name Society 2009 57(1): 30–51
Surname data may be found in trade directories, census returns, birth, death, and marriage records.
Middle names provide additional information. Middle names may be inherited, follow naming customs, or be treated as part of the family name. For instance, in some Latin cultures, both the mother's family name and the father's family name are used by the children.
Historically, naming traditions existed in some places and cultures. Even in areas that tended to use naming conventions, however, they were by no means universal. Families may have used them some of the time, among some of their children, or not at all. A pattern might also be broken to name a newborn after a recently deceased sibling, aunt or uncle.
An example of a naming tradition from England, Scotland and Ireland:
|1st son||paternal grandfather|
|2nd son||maternal grandfather|
|4th son||father's oldest brother|
|1st daughter||maternal grandmother|
|2nd daughter||paternal grandmother|
|4th daughter||mother's oldest sister|
Another example is in some areas of Germany, where siblings were given the same first name, often of a favourite saint or local nobility, but different second names by which they were known ( Rufname). If a child died, the next child of the same gender that was born may have been given the same name. It is not uncommon that a list of a particular couple's children will show one or two names repeated.
Personal names have periods of popularity, so it is not uncommon to find many similarly named people in a generation, and even similarly named families; e.g., "William and Mary and their children David, Mary, and John".
Many names may be identified strongly with a particular gender; e.g., William for boys, and Mary for girls. Others may be unisex names, e.g., Lee, or have only slightly variant spellings based on gender, e.g., Frances (usually female) and Francis (usually male).
Available sources may include vital records (civil or church registration), censuses, and tax assessments. Oral tradition is also an important source, although it must be used with caution. When no source information is available for a location, circumstantial evidence may provide a probable answer based on a person's or a family's place of residence at the time of the event.
Maps and gazetteers are important sources for understanding the places researched. They show the relationship of an area to neighboring communities and may be of help in understanding migration patterns. Family tree mapping using online mapping tools such as Google Earth (particularly when used with Historical Map overlays such as those from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection) assist in the process of understanding the significance of geographical locations.
People sometimes reduce their age on marriage, and those under "full age" may increase their age in order to marry or to join the armed forces. Census returns are notoriously unreliable for ages or for assuming an approximate death date. Ages over 15 in the UK Census are rounded down to the next lower multiple of five years.
Although baptismal dates are often used to approximate birth dates, some families waited years before baptizing children, and adult baptisms are the norm in some religions. Both birth and marriage dates may have been adjusted to cover for pre-wedding pregnancies.
Calendar changes must also be considered. In 1752, England and her American colonies changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. In the same year, the date the new year began was changed. Prior to 1752 it was Lady Day; this was changed to 1 January. Many other European countries had already made the calendar changes before England had, sometimes centuries earlier. By 1751 there was an 11-day discrepancy between the date in England and the date in other European countries.
For further detail on the changes involved in moving from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, see: Gregorian calendar.
The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar proposed during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days in 1871 in Paris. Dates in official records at this time use the revolutionary calendar and need "translating" into the Gregorian calendar for calculating ages etc. There are various websites which do this.
It is important to remember that a person may change occupations, and that titles change over time as well. Some workers no longer fit for their primary trade often took less prestigious jobs later in life, while others moved upwards in prestige.Robert M. Hauser, "Occupational Status in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries", Historical Methods (1982) vol. 15, no. 3, 111–126. Many unskilled ancestors had a variety of jobs depending on the season and local trade requirements. Census returns may contain some embellishment; e.g., from labourer to masonry, or from journeyman to master craftsman. Names for old or unfamiliar local occupations may cause confusion if poorly legible. For example, an ostler (a keeper of horses) and a hostler (an innkeeper) could easily be confused for one another. Likewise, descriptions of such occupations may also be problematic. The perplexing description "ironer of rabbit burrows" may turn out to describe an ironer (profession) in the Bristol district named Rabbit Burrows. Several trades have regionally preferred terms. For example, "shoemaker" and "cordwainer" have the same meaning. Finally, many apparently obscure jobs are part of a larger trade community, such as watchmaking, Stocking frame or gunmaking.
Occupational data may be reported in occupational licenses, tax assessments, membership records of professional organizations, trade directories, census returns, and vital records (civil registration). Occupational dictionaries are available to explain many obscure and archaic trades.For example, United States Bureau of Employment Security, The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (1939)
The quality of census data has been of special interest to historians, who have investigated reliability issues.Richard H. Steckel, "The Quality of Census Data for Historical Inquiry: A Research Agenda," Social Science History, vol. 15, no. 4 (Winter, 1991), pp. 579–599.
When the informant is not identified, one can sometimes deduce information about the identity of the person by careful examination of the source. One should first consider who was alive (and nearby) when the record was created. When the informant is also the person recording the information, the handwriting can be compared to other handwriting samples.
When a source does not provide clues about the informant, genealogists should treat the source with caution. These sources can be useful if they can be compared with independent sources. For example, a census record by itself cannot be given much weight because the informant is unknown. However, when censuses for several years concur on a piece of information that would not likely be guessed by a neighbor, it is likely that the information in these censuses was provided by a family member or other informed person. On the other hand, information in a single census cannot be confirmed by information in an undocumented compiled genealogy since the genealogy may have used the census record as its source and might therefore be dependent on the same misinformed individual.
In addition to copying errors, compiled sources (such as published genealogies and online pedigree databases) are susceptible to misidentification errors and incorrect conclusions based on circumstantial evidence. Identity errors usually occur when two or more individuals are assumed to be the same person. Circumstantial or indirect evidence does not explicitly answer a genealogical question, but either may be used with other sources to answer the question, suggest a probable answer, or eliminate certain possibilities. Compilers sometimes draw hasty conclusions from circumstantial evidence without sufficiently examining all available sources, without properly understanding the evidence, and without appropriately indicating the level of uncertainty.