Genealogy: What’s the Point?

Usually when I mention my genealogy addiction what I get in return from others is sincere interest. They wish they knew how to get started, they ask me for advice on how to get started or the genealogy bug has also bitten them and we trade stories.

Every now and then though, I’ll meet someone with zero interest. I mean… zero. Not only do they not have any interest, they don’t see the point or why it’s important.

“Genealogy? Really? What’s the point? What does some guy who died decades ago have to do with me?”

This is usually when I try to keep my head from exploding. What does some guy who died decades ago have to do with you? One word…

Everything.

If you are one of these people-I ask you to bear with me and hear me out. If you are someone who’s interested in researching your family-let me give you another reason to be interested. And for those of you who already get it… let me give you a reason to smile today (because you’ll get where I am going).

So, let’s get started….

I’m going to have you use your imagination for a second… don’t fight it! Just roll with me here… Let’s say your 10th great grandfather’s name is Noah Washburn and just for fun… let’s pretend this is him…

dennis hughes

Again… obviously the photo isn’t that old-nor is the guy in the picture named Noah Washburn (pretending).

Back to your handsome, 10th great grandfather, Noah Washburn…

Let’s think about Noah’s life for a second. Like our lives, there would have been everyday things that happened in his life that would have been out of his control. Things he would have needed to overcome or survive. Such as…

  • Natural Disasters: tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, wild fires, mudslides, hurricanes, bitterly cold winters, floods, avalanches, droughts, and the list goes on.
  • Epidemics: Influenza, Tuberculosis, Smallpox, the Black Death, etc.
  • Famines: The Great Famine, Bengal Famine, Chalisa Famine, etc. (wrong time periods but you get the point)
  • War: Millions to choose from…
  • Work Related Accidents: shipwrecks, mining accidents, hunting accidents, shepherd trampled by a heard of stampeding sheep…

…Just making sure you’re still awake.

The point is-there would have been a TON of things Noah would have had to survive long enough to have his children. If he did not survive the above, your behind wouldn’t be sitting comfortably in your computer chair, sofa, etc. reading this blog.

You would never have existed.

Now let’s take it a step further. Think about all the decisions we make on a daily basis that change the course of our lives. Sometimes they are big choices-Will I pick up and move to another state? Will I quit my job and start my own business? Other times the choices you make seem small and not worth remembering. However, in the grand scheme of things, those little choices can lead to major changes in our life. Will I stay in tonight or will I go to my friend’s party where I will meet my future husband?

So let’s look back at Noah for a second.

  • Maybe he decided to take on a job other than the one he chose?
  • Maybe instead of working on the family farm he decided to join the military?
  • Maybe he decided to move to another town, village or country instead of staying put?
  • Maybe he decided to marry another woman before getting the chance to meet your 10th great grandmother?
  • Maybe he did marry your 10th great grandmother but instead of them having 5 kids they decided to have 3…and your 9th great grandfather would have been their 4th child?

The point being-if Noah made any choices differently (major ones or little ones that added up to major change) it could have put his life on a completely different path which may have ended with you never existing.

 

Now lets take this even further…

You have two parents…

2 Parents

Four grand parents…

4 Grandparents

Eight great grandparents…

8 Great Grandparents

Sixteen 2nd great grand parents…

16 2nd Great Grandparents

And 32 3rd great grand parents…

32 3rd Great Grandparents

Stopping there for now, that’s a total of 62 people you directly descend from.

62 People

Had any one of those 62 people not survived the uncontrollable or made decisions other than the ones they made-any ONE of them… You would not exist. And let’s not forget-the same is true about the hundreds of thousands of others I didn’t have the space to represent in restroom symbol people.

So, for those who insist on asking, “Genealogy? Really? What’s the point? What does some guy who died decades ago have to do with me?”

One word…

Everything.

 

Are you one of the guilty people who found genealogy to be pointless and have a change of heart? Are you a newbie and hadn’t thought of the above? Been at it awhile and have something to add?! Don’t be shy-comment below! I love to hear from you guys.

Kris Williams
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21 Comments

  • Mike Kerr February 11, 2016 at 10:02 pm Reply

    Are you able to help trace a foster child’s roots??

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams February 12, 2016 at 8:33 pm Reply

      Hey Mike,

      I dont have a lot of experience with adoption or foster situations. What do you have for info?

  • Angie February 11, 2016 at 10:03 pm Reply

    Hey Kris,
    You did a really good job at explaining that. I have dabbled in genealogy off and on over the years, and like you I have come across some people who just don’t get it. Thanks for everything you do.

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams February 12, 2016 at 8:35 pm Reply

      Hey Angie,

      Thank you! It is a funny thing to meet people who think its silly or don’t get the importance. It’s one of the most addictive hobbies I have in my life! It has also taught me so much about my self-wish more people would give it a chance.

  • Gregg Reed February 11, 2016 at 10:17 pm Reply

    Kris you are dead on target good job

  • Kenny Mulligan February 12, 2016 at 12:49 am Reply

    I usually offer to research family histories for friends and acquaintances and it’s amazing how interested they become once I give them just a little information that they didn’t know. To me there’s nothing more exciting than finding that missing piece of the puzzle that has taken possibly years to find. Great blog Kris.

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams February 12, 2016 at 8:32 pm Reply

      Hey Kenny,

      I 100% agree. I was researching for people regularly and loved bringing them what I found. 🙂

  • Jennifer February 12, 2016 at 12:58 am Reply

    Where to start ? My mom was adopted I know her birthparents name and that’s all.
    Dad’s side I know my grandparents name but I don’t know their parents. Needless to say I didnt get very far.

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams February 12, 2016 at 8:31 pm Reply

      Hey Jennifer,

      Having her birth parents name is actually a great thing… do you have your mom’s birth certificate? Between your mom’s date and place of birth and her parents names you have more info than most do when dealing with adoption.

      Same with Dad… if you have have his birth info, you could get his birth certificate which might give you more info on his parents. From there you can start to trace his parents lives through documents. It really isn’t all that hard (if there is paperwork available)-just a bit of leg work and knowing where to look.

  • Linda February 13, 2016 at 10:01 am Reply

    This might sound silly but I remember what seemed to be a trivial conversation with my grand mother when I was a child. We were discussing how my mother would sometimes soak a heavily soiled casserole dish and she would hear nothing of it. She said all you needed was a little elbow grease.
    Since doing my family tree I have weirdly “romanticized” this grandma/grand daughter talk into. I wonder if that phrase “a little elbow grease” was one of the first American phrases my Polish Great Grandmother learned and said repeatedly.
    I get teary eyed now when I hear the songs from “Ragtime”…
    Genealogy research helps you to appreciate everyday comforts you have today your ancestors couldn’t imagine having too.

  • Ronn Rowland February 15, 2016 at 1:05 am Reply

    I’ve traced my last name back to the mid-15th century. One thing that’s frustrating is my paternal grandmother’s parents came from Eastern Europe but can’t find any record of them prior to their arrival in the US. Why did they leave Europe. Would they have survived WWI and/or WWII?

  • Alicia February 19, 2016 at 12:35 am Reply

    I didn’t know until more recently that my dads first cousin was involved in erecting the granite workers monument in Quincy. I did see some photos of it online, hopefully one day I can see it in person!

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams February 19, 2016 at 12:51 am Reply

      I’ve been!!! 🙂 You have to get to it, Ally!! You’ll recognize a lot of names on the bricks 🙂

  • Roger Isaacson February 29, 2016 at 12:40 am Reply

    Genealogy is important to me. I feel like I know the people on my charts. My roots go back on my maternal side to the early days of America. My newest ancester on my moms side is 1702. The newest on my Dads is 1870. I am very proud of my long roots in this country. Thank you for the great article.

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams March 10, 2016 at 2:28 am Reply

      Same here on long roots-more so on my Dad’s side. Its kinda fun to know your ancestors lived and died making this country what it is… although I think many would be rolling in their graves with out current state!! Still fun though-love learning about my ancestors and how history affected them personally.

  • Richard April 19, 2016 at 9:45 pm Reply

    Beautiful!

  • Roger Isaacson. Son of Isaac April 29, 2016 at 12:00 am Reply

    I always love your Genealogy articles As usual, you are spot on. Thanks for writing what us Gravestone hunters are all thinking. The experiences of our ancestors make us who we are. We only realize how much when we learn their stories.

    • Kris Williams
      Kris Williams April 29, 2016 at 12:20 am Reply

      Thank you, Roger!

      Thank you for reading and for your kind words! 🙂 Very true on our ancestors… learning about them also teaches us so much about ourselves. It’s such an addictive/rewarding hobby. 🙂

  • Sean Frohman April 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm Reply

    Fantastic points! I’ve sent this to my daughters mother who will now hopefully understand my obsession! I’m very fortunate to know my ancestry back to the 1400s and I know the names and houses of the first ones that came to America in the 1630s. How lovely it is to walk into a house that was your 8th great grandfathers house. Amazing!

  • Trisha Weathers April 5, 2017 at 2:56 am Reply

    Kris,

    I am addicted to genealogy too. I have broken down several walls, that no one in my family had any clues about. My family (this includes all my extended family, but we just call each other family, and don’t worry how far removed we are) has always been interested in knowing more about the life of my great grandmother, who came from Denmark when she was 13, but we never had enough information to be able to find out more.

    This is where I caught the bug …

    When I finally knocked down that wall piece by piece, information just came flooding in, and it still continues too. We have a family FB group that I will share my findings on. Everyone loves to hear what I have found, which is good, because I love to share!

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