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Shake your family tree (and watch the nuts fall out)

Genealogy, Ancestry and other insanity.


Genealogy comes from the Greek: γενεά, genea, “generation”; and λόγος, logos, “knowledge”. Taken literally, it is the knowledge of generations. For the purpose of this article, genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history.

If you have ever tried to trace your family tree, ancestry or genealogy, you have probably heard the phrase “Shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out”. I am hear to tell you that it is the truest statement ever.  😀

I became interested in genealogy when I got my first computer and realized that I could store information about my family and relatives on it. To be honest, I always enjoyed listening to my relatives talk about the past, what they did and who was kin to who, and how. At that time all I really understood was that this person was my Aunt, cousin and other simple relationships. Second cousin twice removed was a mystery that I really didn’t care about then. As long as they were kin, could tell me a story or play with me that was good enough. 😉

If you are planning on tracing your roots or any other such endeavor, there are a few things that you should know. These are not all-inclusive, but a start:

1. Ancestry starts with a single person and traces backward through time, usually following the male members in a direct line from the starting point. As example:  You-> your father->his father(your grandfather) and so on.

2. Genealogy starts with one person and traces forward in time including all blood related people. This would include, as example, you, your children, their children and so forth. Or, you could start with your great-grandfather and trace forward from there to include all blood relations to whatever time period your can reach. You can also track backward as with ancestry and include descendants as well. Genealogy is more open than ancestry.

Key to genealogy is blood, or genetics. As example, your brother-in-law is not a “blood” relative and his relatives are not usually traced within your genealogy. An exception might be where a relative of your brother-in-law were married to a blood relative in your line.

Oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records may be used to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members.  The results can then be compiled in books or other media using charts, pictures and graphics to enhance the information and make more understandable.

I mentioned enjoying listening to my relative talk about the past. Stories are a great way to make a dry subject more interesting. Reading who is kin to who can be a bit boring. Finding out that your Great Great Uncle was once a Sheriff  in a wild west town and some of the things he did is more interesting.

Of course, gathering this information is the real trick. Start early while your older relatives are still around. The phrase “dead men tell no tales” is true in genealogy. You can’t ask a dead person what they did in life.

I’ve been asked how to talk to relatives about their past. Best answer I can give is to be honest. Tell them why you are asking and what you want to know. Show interest in their past. Often times a relative will tell you stories and give information because they enjoy remembering the their past.

You will find those that do not want to talk. Respect that. Pushing is not going to help. Try getting them to verify information you have. If they simply do not want to give information, let it go. There will be others that will help.

Research is something that you will do a lot. You will make a lot of road trips. I’ve visited many places looking for information.  Some places to find information would be the local library, city records department, cemetery offices and other government records departments. Ask them about local records. Another place to visit is any museums or local history organizations. These often provide a wealth of history and have some records of people who lived in the area. One of those people might just be that long-lost Uncle that your heard about but could never find.

The Internet is a wealth of information as well. Just remember that you need proof. Simply because you read it on the Internet or your Great Aunt told you doesn’t make it true. Get legal documentation whenever possible. Birth certificates, marriage records and other such items are vital to proving your claims.

Have fun and watch out for falling nuts. 😀

Regards,
Frank


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