Genealogy and family trees

This post is part of ROOTS – a series that originates on BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo – see what others are posting on the topic.

Roots: they are the stories that ground you, the food that returns you, the music that comforts you, and the people who know you. Everyone has roots that influence them, even if they don’t consciously know them or can’t access them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 – Prompt:

Are you interested in genealogy?  Do you have a family tree constructed?

I have always found family trees fascinating.

I have several trees from different branches of our family available. They are not consolidated, and I realize that it is a passionate work if you want to dedicate yourself to it. It has certainly become easier thanks to modern technology and swift access to online database. Also contacting those who dedicate themselves to researching and collecting data is much easier now. But it is still awfully time consuming, so you need to set aside some time if you want to do it properly and seriously.

What I am mostly passionate about is relationships. I believe in connections. I believe in networks. I realize that our way of thinking is largely influenced by who we are connected to and how we connect. There are connections in our ancestry that we are absolutely not aware of, but they are still there, they are in our DNA and they do have an effect on us, mostly in physical traits of course, but they may have more than that as an influence to who we are and how we relate to our environment.

When I started a family of my own, little did I know about the family I was going to give my children and I gathered lots of documents because I felt it was important for them to know the history of their paternal family. Since their father left us when they were very little (in 2002) and we were divorced in 2004, I am glad I still have those documents with me, at least, it gives me a little bit of solace that I can pass them information if they ever want to learn about that side of their heritage, even though it will never make it up for having built a relationship with their father as they grow up.

Now, I am not an historian, and I simply stored those informations, as well as the other information scattered from the other branches of my family. I believe it would be time for me to sort all this out and put something together neatly and try to see if I can build a tree for myself, that does not go only one way. For the moment, if I follow what I got, I can go back to circa 1700 on my paternal lineage, because a historian did a fabulous work and published the result of his research in a 95 page document retelling the influence and destiny of a Jewish family from the Eastern part of France (Lorraine), mine. I learned a lot thanks to this document.

I watched Who Do You Think You Are? A NBC series that aired in 2010 and followed a celebrity on a journey to their family tree and heritage. The obvious partnership of the production with Ancestry.com made it a little constrained at times, – and annoying in my personal taste – but otherwise I enjoyed the concept and found it pleasant to follow, even if at times I found it too shallow: I learned histories that I was not familiar with and enjoyed seeing how they were portrayed in a very vivid, if not dramatic way. The fact that it was celebrities was not that useful for me, and I felt like some of the connections were fabricated for the sake of the production, but all in all, the stories were real, from real people who went through these amazing dramas in their lives, and it was such an interesting way to understand how history and geography have an impact on our ways of seeing our destiny.

I understand that the series, that was cancelled by NBC, will start over on TLC end of July this year. Ancestry.com is still sponsoring, so I don’t believe it will be as exciting as the concept promised in the first instances (don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Ancestry.com, but their marketing is appalling, if you want my honest opinion, and I like sponsors when they are more subtle in their call to actions). Also my interest in celebrities is extremely limited, but hopefully their ancestry has diverse backgrounds enough that it will keep me fascinated enough!

Family Tree of my children s  paternal lineage
A handmade Family Tree of my children’s paternal lineage as scribbled by their paternal grandmother on a kitchen table in 1999

On the topic of online genealogy sites, besides Ancestry.com which I cited already, you have Geni.com that is now part of MyHeritage.com and also Tribal Pages! Free accounts are limited, and paying accounts go from $2.00/month to 10 times that fee, so the range of service is pretty wide!

See my other posts of the series:

Three generations away

Generations

Random facts about my judaism

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Published by

Otir

French blogger in the US writes on cultural differences, disabilities, religion, social media and politics.

7 thoughts on “Genealogy and family trees”

  1. I enjoyed watching Who Do You Think You Are? as well, though I wish they would use ordinary people for the stories. I guess celebrities bring the ratings up. Interesting to hear your take on the Ancestry.com features in the stories. I guess because I have a membership to the website it doesn’t bother me so much. And I am always hopeful for a tip on better usage of the website.

    1. It is good to read that you too did not care that much about having celebrities in the show, and I agree with you that they obviously chose them for the ratings.

      I am particularly sensitive to advertisement because I loathe it when it is pushy: everytime they were mentioning Ancestry.com, it sounded like a jingle to me! This is also why I linked to other websites that may do the same trick as well as Ancestry.com, for a different price, and with different features.

      I believe the website is still a fantastic tool, don’t take me wrong!

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