'Know Thyself'

This is known as ‘self-awareness’ to better known one’s own values, interests and background. One of the best methods to learn more about yourself is to investigate your ancestors and what path they took that led eventually to you and what you have done in life. You might have an interest in either art painting or a deep appreciation of works of art and by investigating your ancestors you might discover where you art skill or appreciation originated from.

Do you really know how you arrived at the hometown you grew up in, what influenced the selection of a school or occupation. The answer can be as close as your own family. You can actually learn more about yourself – why you like certain things, how you have a distinctive skill, and what motivates you to take a certain path by getting to know better the ancestors that influenced your life.

Are you an extrovert, a daredevil, a writer or a romantic carefree soul? Might there be a predisposition such as being a risk-taker, being extremely affectionate, curious or skills, like singing, playing a musical instrument or writing poetry? All can be examples of family components that can be passed down through the generations.

That is what genealogy is all about, not just names and dates on a chart, but rather the individuals. Delving back one, two and three generations you can learn more of how you got to your present location, the sacrifices and hardships suffered by the ancestors and their decisions that directly affected you.

Genealogy is like detective work, putting together a puzzle, piece by piece. Begin with yourself – the easiest part. Your basic information of full name, birth and marriage dates and locations, schooling, occupations, places traveled, etc. Do the same thing on information about your children, which would be two generations now assembled.

The next generation would be your parents, but also include their siblings, your aunts and uncles and their children (your cousins). Some information will be gathered directly from your relatives – -ask them. If something is unknown, leave a blank and it can be searched for later.

Real events in history affected individuals and families. Wars affect families, natural disasters (storms, droughts, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc), political changes (end of slavery, assassinations, revolutions), new innovations (telephones, electricity, airplanes), epidemics (smallpox, influenza, cholera, typhoid fever), all have struck our ancestors at some point.

Finding the information that a grandmother had six children, but only two survived to adulthood gives the person a greater appreciation of the advances in medicine. Realizing that your parents had to move to a different state and a new home because there were no more jobs in their hometown demonstrates their perseverance, their never-give-up attitude.

Any that might be called a ‘black sheep’ – a person maybe on the other side of the law or acceptable social behavior. Well that ancestor who was the renegade, maverick or rascal, they many times were the most creative and innovative people. In those ancestors, you just might see your own strengths and weaknesses.

As you investigate family members you learn what illnesses they suffered from or what health circumstances they experienced Since many diseases and health conditions are inherited that data can prove to be invaluable.

The more you investigate the lives of your ancestors you will find it fascinating how many common characteristics you will notice. Location of photos of relatives shows the physical traits you might share. Some records have written physical descriptions, such are found in military pension records, draft registration forms, passports and ship manifests.

Writing out events is not the only method; placing photos, souvenirs, postcards, maps, letters, awards, tickets, etc. into a scrapbook is another excellent approach.

The discoveries made in the journey might stun and astonish you. The information you obtain about yourself and other relatives is invaluable and can be passed down to prospective generations as your legacy. Even if you lack any direct descendants, there are usually cousins, nieces and nephews who would appreciate the information collected.

A reminder, the effort you make now to link the past and the present will be of benefit to you in knowing where you came from and knowing yourself.

Photos: Family Trees

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Washington’s Genealogy

Why is Genealogy Important?

Serendipity in Genealogy

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