The word ‘genealogy’ is constructed from the Ancient Greek terms, ‘genea’ – meaning generations, and ‘logos’ – meaning knowledge. It is the art of tracing your genealogical history through such things as family trees. Through links to online databases, archives, lists of passenger movements and historical indexes, you can discover the history of your family. Genealogy searches have, more recently, become increasingly popular. A recognition of the family that you, as an individual, have emerged from can enrich personal conceptions of identity. The last couple of centuries have seen a cultural focus on the individual, away from the greater family identity.
We live in the west, in societies that celebrate youth and individuality, over tribal allegiances and clan memberships. To put it into more classical terms, perhaps in Roman times, it is the emergence of the ‘new man’ over the ‘patrician’. Who we are, means more than where we have come from, when considering career and marriage. Despite this modern trend toward the individual, or part, over the family, or the whole, people still wonder at where they have come from. Most usually, it strikes them at a certain age, at an age when they are having children themselves and seeing those children grow into young adults.
In some ways, if life is compared to a race, these individuals have sprinted out of the blocks and run the first third of the circuit under their own steam. Now, however, they are beginning to look around them and ponder on all the things that have made them that are not under their own control. They are wondering if their father and grandfather, also, ran similar races. Whether the orientation of their lives faced challenges and opportunities of the same ilk? The idea that, perhaps, there is a collective spirit at work within the family.
As we get closer to the finishing line, stray thoughts about mortality wander across our consciousnesses. The individual, the part, will cease to exist eventually, but the family, the whole, will, most likely, go on. Understanding the essential characteristics, or qualities, within their unique family, becomes more important. It is like, we are all of a sudden, not quite so alone, we are not just individuals running this race. Genealogy can reveal many of the answers to these questions. It is the search for you, but a search for more than you initially imagined. Generations of your family, who have all embarked upon the same race at different times. What will your search reveal?