Curiosity or obsession? Hobby or career?
In the last thirty years, researching family history has become popular. The ability to access records online has made some of the research easier and more accessible. Whereas once you would have had to travel to archives, possibly in various parts of the country to access paper documents, with a click of a mouse, you can now access all kinds of records and information online.
For some, this is a pleasant hobby, a way of tracing family roots centuries into the past. For others, it is an obsession, almost akin to detective work through the ages, finding lost ancestors and providing proof of lineage.
Genealogy is not just the study of your own family history. It is acquiring a set of skills to know where to look for information, how records were kept through the ages and what certain symbols, signs and language you will come across is actually telling you.
The history of genealogy
The study of lineage has been around for a long time, and is not a new or modern phenomenon. Those of noble birth in Europe sometimes had a hard time holding on to their crowns, titles and lands and as such, need to be ready to prove their lineage through the years. This way, they could prove they were entitled to the throne or the mass of land or titles they were wanting.
Using key information such as birth, death and marriage certificates and records, a genealogist can look back through centuries of information, tracing the line back of a family through generations.
It varies slightly from family history as this is more of an in-depth look at names, dates of birth and so on. With genealogy, there is so much more that you need to know from location of events, things that happened, the part family members played in events such as wars or rebellions. It is a richer history, a wider net that is cast and more information that is sought.
A genealogist produces something known as a pedigree chart – or, in layman’s terms, a family tree – that charts everyone who was born and died in a family, who they married, their children and then who they married and so on.
It can be complex and complicated, especially once adoption is added to the family and how, over the years, the nuclear family has changed. There are many dead ends, many obstacles and hurdles and it takes time, as well as dedication.
It is a skill and one that many people studying genealogy courses will testify too. Learning to understand records from different eras, how they kept information and why is all part and parcel of unravelling the mystery that is before you.
It can be a mathematical puzzle, as well as a historical one. There are two parents, four grandparents, so many children, and then spouses. With death or divorce, come more spouses and so on.
Finding ancestors and their stories
A genealogist will use a variety of sources for information and pieces of the puzzle:
- Genetic history – many people are learning that DNA has the building blocks to finding out their past. Although a genealogist doesn’t test DNA, they can use this information if it is available.
- Geographical history – there are times when the location of the family is known at certain times and local archive offices and records will show when the family arrived and possibly if they departed the area too.
- Historical – knowing where people lived also gives clues of their lives, how they lived them and the events they may have been part of; for example, life was very different in rural England in the 1880s that living in the city of London.
Online genealogy courses are a great way of studying this interesting subject. Courses such as these will equip you with the skills you need to unravel the mysteries of the past, and be able to piece those parts together in the modern-day.
From understanding language used in years gone by, to understanding how referencing works in archives, you too can unravel the events of the past and the part that your ancestors played in it. This is more than just drawing up a family tree, it about looking at their lives and perhaps an explanation of why you are where you are today.
For some, this is a hobby but for others, it can become a possible career too. Although there are no formal qualifications needed to become a genealogist, it takes more than just being able to construct your own family tree.
Studying online means you can do so at your own pace, manage your own learning and, more importantly, study at a time that suits you.
You can enrol today on one of our genealogy courses online. There are no pre-requisites to our courses meaning you can enrol on the course you want!