Genealogy refers to the record of the history of the family or the tracing of the family’s lineages. It can also be called the study of descent for an individual, or a family constituting the family tree. Oral interviews from informants, historical records, analyzing the genetics, and some other methods are used in order to gather data on the genealogy of an individual or a family by genealogists.
Family names also serve with genealogical information. Nevertheless, it brings confusion as well. Often, a person’s name refers to the family he belongs to (family name, surname, etc). These surnames are hard to find in directories or other census records. Transmission of names across generation also takes place due to marriages, immigration, etc. Children might also take up the names of their step-parent instead of their real ones. Therefore it is important to be careful while completely relying on genealogical data. The informant providing the data might not be literate enough, he/she can be biased while providing any information, or with passing time, there might arise some errors in the data being collected.
These studies are undertaken in order to understand the important links of kinship determined by marriage and descent, caste or status relations of the people in a group. It is also important in order to carve out a place for a family or a group in the larger historical picture and preserve the past for future generations. Genealogy or kinship also plays a crucial role in determining the structure of nonindustrial societies. Through this genealogists not only try to trace ancestral roots but also seek to determine where the ancestors came from, how they lived, what were their occupational practices, how was their social status determined, and so on.
While amateur genealogists are only concerned about tracing the history of their own family, professional genealogists not only trace their own ancestors but also of other people. They even publish a book about their findings, methods of collecting data, etc. They can often be specialized to study a specific society or group, a specific surname or any particular prominent family. For example, a genealogist might be interested in knowing about the history of the people who have a common surname; whether they belong from the same ancestor or same society, etc.
Genealogical studies can help confirm claims about one’s ancestors or provide a detailed family medical history so that proper preventive measures can be taken. Genealogy is a study across the dimensions of time and space which gives us knowledge about the historical events which shaped or changed the lives of our ancestors and eventually of ourselves. It can also help us in finding relatives who are distant or were not known earlier. Earlier, its focus was on the kinship and descent of high officials, nobles, or rulers, resulting from arguments over claims and legitimacy in properties. However, in modern times, even common people search for their family histories. With the advent of technological innovations, the tracing of family history has become easier hence widespread. Due to the invention of the internet, genealogists can now easily access resources which help them in their studies. This has resulted in a growing interest in the topic of genealogy.