Most genealogists discover that they have developed progonoplexia. There is definitely something that genealogists are doing that causes it. Sometimes, it appears as though progonoplexia is contagious. There is no cure for progonoplexia, but that’s ok. Genealogists who have it wouldn’t change that for the world!
Progonoplexia is a word used to describe people who have become obsessed with discovering as much as possible about their ancestors. It is another word for “ancestoritis”, which is a rough translation of a Greek word that meant something like “having a deep obsession with one’s ancestry”.
MyHeritage notes that learning about one’s ancestors was a huge part of Greek identity. Doing so allowed people to brag about their ancestors. It allowed them to point out the past glories of their ancestors, and have those glories reflected upon themselves.
The progonoplexia “bug” has spread to many genealogists across the United States. People “catch” it from watching TV shows about genealogy (such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots”). Genealogy websites like MyHeritage, FamilySearch, and Ancestry.com make it easy for people to start putting together their family tree. Genealogy conferences teach people new ways to find information about their ancestors.
One of the reasons why genealogists, who have developed progonoplexia, wouldn’t want to seek out a “cure” is because there is always more to learn about one’s family. MyHeritage points this out very clearly.
“Each person has two parents and four grandparents, but as you go back, the number of ancestors we have doubles in each generation. This means that each person has 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents and 1,024 great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents.” They note that this theory could be seen as somewhat inaccurate, because many ancestors married into the family. Even so, this gives genealogists a whole lot of ancestors to research and learn about!
There is another word that sounds, and means, something very similar to progonoplexia. The word is prosopography What does that word mean? It is defined as “a study of the collective characteristics of a historic group based on an examination of the individuals within the group”.
One could say that genealogists do this. Have you ever seen an old photo of an ancestor and noticed that he or she looks like a living relative? Did you discover that there is a “family nose” or “family hairline” that many people on your family tree have in common? Were you amazed by how of the people that you are related to all had the same profession? You might have been doing a simplified version of prosopography.
Image by Sharon Mollerus on Flickr
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