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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Genealogy (from Greek: γενεά, genea, "generation"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives.

The pursuit of family history tends to be shaped by several motivations, including the desire to carve out a place for one's family in the larger historical picture, a sense of responsibility to preserve the past for future generations, and a sense of self-satisfaction in accurate storytelling.[1]

Some scholars differentiate between genealogy and family history, limiting genealogy to an account of kinship, while using "family history" to denote the provision of additional details about lives and historical context.

The family tree of Herzog Ludwig I of Württemberg (ruled 1568-1593)



Hobbyist genealogists typically pursue their own ancestry and that of their spouses. Professional genealogists may also conduct research for others, publish books on genealogical methods, teach, or work for companies that provide software or online databases. Both try to understand not just where and when people lived, but also their lifestyles, biographies, and motivations. This often requires — or leads to — knowledge of antiquated laws, old political boundaries, migration trends, and historical social conditions.

Genealogists sometimes specialize in a particular group, e.g. a Scottish clan; a particular surname, such as in a one-name study; a small community, e.g. a single village or parish, such as in a one-place study; or a particular, often famous, person. Bloodlines of Salem is an example of a specialized family-history group. It welcomes members who are able to prove descent from a participant of the Salem Witch Trials or who choose simply to support the group.

Genealogists and family historians often join family history societies, where novices can learn from more experienced researchers. Such societies may also index records to make them more accessible, and engage in advocacy and other efforts to preserve public records and cemeteries.

Historical background

Historically, in Western societies the focus of genealogy was on the kinship and descent of rulers and nobles, often arguing or demonstrating the legitimacy of claims to wealth and power. The term often overlapped with heraldry, in which the ancestry of royalty was reflected in their coats of arms. Many claimed noble ancestries are considered fabrications by modern scholars, such as the Anglo-Saxon chronicles that traced the ancestry of several English kings to the god Woden.

Genealogical research in the United States was first systematized in the early 19th century, especially by John Farmer (1789-1838).[citation needed] Before Farmer's efforts, tracing one's genealogy was seen as an attempt by colonists to secure a measure of social standing within the British Empire, an aim that was counter to the new republic's egalitarian, future-oriented ethos.[citation needed] As Fourth of July celebrations commemorating the Founding Fathers and the heroes of the Revolutionary War became increasingly popular, however, the pursuit of 'antiquarianism,' which focused on local history, became acceptable as a way to honor the achievements of early Americans.[citation needed] Farmer capitalized on the acceptability of antiquarianism to frame genealogy within the early republic's ideological framework of pride in one's American ancestors. He corresponded with other antiquarians in New England, where antiquarianism and genealogy were well established, and became a coordinator, booster, and contributor to the burgeoning movement. In the 1820s, he and fellow antiquarians began to produce genealogical and antiquarian tracts in earnest, slowly gaining a devoted audience among the American people. Though Farmer died in 1839, his efforts led to the creation of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, which publishes the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. The society is one of New England's oldest and most prominent organizations dedicated to the acquisition, preservation, and dissemination of public records and private monuments that would otherwise have decayed and been forgotten.[2]

The Genealogical Society of Utah, founded in 1894, later became the Family History Department of the Mormon church. The department's research facility, the Family History Library, which has developed the most extensive genealogical record-gathering program in the world,[citation needed] was established to assist in tracing family lineages for special religious ceremonies that Mormons believe will seal family units together for eternity. This fulfilled a biblical prophecy stating that the prophet Elijah would return to 'turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.'[3]

In modern times, genealogy became more widespread, with commoners as well as nobility researching and maintaining their family trees.[4] Genealogy received a boost in the late 1970s with the premiere of the television adaptation of Alex Haley's account of his family line, Roots: The Saga of an American Family,[5]. With the advent of the Internet, the number of resources readily accessible by genealogists has vastly increased, resulting in an explosion of interest in the topic.[6] According to some sources, genealogy is one of the most popular topics on the Internet.[7] The Internet has become not only a major source of data for genealogists, but also of education and communication.

Genealogical research process

Genealogical research is a complex process that uses historical records and sometimes genetic analysis to demonstrate kinship. Reliable conclusions are based on the quality of sources, ideally original records, the information within those sources, ideally primary or firsthand information, and the evidence that can be drawn, directly or indirectly, from that information. In many instances, genealogists must skillfully assemble indirect or circumstantial evidence to build a case for identity and kinship. All evidence and conclusions, together with the documentation that supports them, is then assembled to create a cohesive "genealogy" or "family history."[8] Historical, social, and family context is essential to achieving correct identification of individuals and relationships. Source citation is also important when conducting genealogical research.[9]

Genealogists begin their research by collecting family documents and stories. This creates a foundation for documentary research, which involves examining and evaluating historical records for evidence about ancestors and other relatives, their kinship ties, and the events that occurred in their lives. As a rule, genealogists begin with the present and work backward in time.

To keep track of collected material, family group sheets and pedigree charts are used. Formerly handwritten, these can now be generated by genealogical software.

Genetic analysis

Because a person's DNA contains information that has been passed down relatively unchanged from early ancestors, analysis of DNA is sometimes used for genealogical research. Two DNA types are of particular interest: mitochondrial DNA that we all possess and that is passed down with only minor mutations through the matrilineal (direct female) line; and the Y-chromosome, present only in males, which is passed down with only minor mutations through the patrilineal (direct male) line.

A genealogical DNA test allows two individuals to find the probability that they are, or are not, related within an estimated number of generations. Individual genetic test results are collected in databases to match people descended from a relatively recent common ancestor. See, for example, the Molecular Genealogy Research Project. These tests are limited to either the patrilineal or the matrilineal line.

Data sharing among researchers

Most genealogy software programs can export information about persons and their relationships in a standardized format called "GEDCOM" In that format it can be shared with other genealogists, added to online databases, or converted into family web sites. Social networking service (SNS) websites allow genealogists to share data and build their family trees online. Members can upload their family trees and contact other family historians to fill in gaps in their research.


Volunteer efforts figure prominently in genealogy. These range from the extremely informal to the highly organized.

On the informal side are the many popular and useful message boards such as Rootschat and mailing lists on particular surnames, regions, and other topics. These forums can be used to try to find relatives, request record lookups, obtain research advice, and much more.

Many genealogists participate in loosely organized projects, both online and off. These collaborations take numerous forms. Some projects prepare name indexes for records, such as probate cases, and publish the indexes, either off- or online. These indexes can be used as finding aids to locate original records. Other projects transcribe or abstract records. Offering record lookups for particular geographic areas is another common service. Volunteers, such as those involved in Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK), do record lookups in their home areas for researchers who are unable to travel.

Those looking for a structured volunteer environment can join one of thousands of genealogical societies worldwide. Most societies have a unique area of focus, such as a particular surname, ethnicity, geographic area, or descendancy from participants in a given historical event. Genealogical societies are almost exclusively staffed by volunteers and may offer a broad range of services, including maintaining libraries for members' use, publishing newsletters, providing research assistance to the public, offering classes or seminars, and organizing record preservation or transcription projects.

Records in genealogical research

A family history page from an Antebellum era family Bible.

Genealogists use a wide variety of records in their research. To effectively conduct genealogical research, it is important to understand how the records were created, what information is included in them, and how and where to access them.

Records that are used in genealogy research include:

To keep track of their citizens, governments began keeping records of persons who were neither royalty nor nobility. In England and Germany, for example, such record keeping started with parish registers in the 16th century.[11] As more of the population was recorded, there were sufficient records to follow a family. Major life events, such as births, marriages, and deaths, were often documented with a license, permit, or report. Genealogists locate these records in local, regional or national offices or archives and extract information about family relationships and recreate timelines of persons' lives.

In China, India and other Asian countries, genealogy books are used to record the names, occupations, and other information about family members, with some books dating back hundreds or even thousands of years. In the eastern Indian state of Bihar, there is a written tradition of genealogical records among Maithil Brahmins and Karna Kayasthas called "Panjis", dating to the 12th century CE. Even today these records are consulted prior to marriages.[12][13][14]

In Ireland, genealogical records were recorded by professional families of senchaidh (historians) until as late as the mid-17th century, when Gaelic civilization died out. Perhaps the most outstanding example of this genre is Leabhar na nGenealach/The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, by Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh (d. 1671), published in 2004.

LDS collections

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has engaged in large-scale microfilming of records of genealogical value. Their Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, houses over 2 million microfiche and microfilms of genealogically relevant material, which are also available for on-site research at over 4500 Family History Centers worldwide.[15]

The LDS church has also compiled indexes of the submissions of its members, resulting in several large databases: the International Genealogical Index, or IGI, which includes both data extracted from filmed civil and ecclesiastic records from various worldwide locales and member-submitted information; the Ancestral File, or AF, which includes the contributions of church members; and the Pedigree Resource File, or PRF, compiled from member and non-member submissions. The IGI contains indexes to millions of records of individuals who lived between 1500 and 1900, primarily in the United States, Canada and Europe. Although independent of the IGI, the AF and PRF often contain duplications of IGI records. All three of these indexes are available free on their website, FamilySearch. FamilySearch also includes an 1880 United States federal census index, an 1881 British census index, an 1881 Canadian census index, and the U.S. Social Security Death Index, as well as research guides and genealogical word lists.

Types of genealogical information

Genealogists who seek to reconstruct the lives of each ancestor consider all historical information to be "genealogical" information. Traditionally, the basic information needed to ensure correct identification of each person are place names, occupations, family names, first names, and dates. However, modern genealogists greatly expand this list, recognizing the need to place this information in its historical context in order to properly evaluate genealogical evidence and distinguish between same-name individuals. A great deal of information is available for British ancestry[16] with growing resources for other ethnic groups.[17]

Family names

Family names are simultaneously one of the most important pieces of genealogical information, and a source of significant confusion for researchers.[18]

In many cultures, the name of a person refers to the family to which he or she belongs. This is called the family name, surname, or last name. Patronymics are names that identify an individual based on the father's name. For example, Marga Olafsdottir is Marga, daughter of Olaf, and Olaf Thorsson is Olaf, son of Thor. Many cultures used patronymics before surnames were adopted or came into use. The Dutch in New York, for example, used the patronymic system of names until 1687 when the advent of English rule mandated surname usage.[19] In Iceland, patronymics are used by a majority of the population.[20] In Denmark and Norway patronymics and farm names were generally in use through the 1800s and beyond, though surnames began to come into fashion toward the end of the nineteenth century in some parts of the country. Not until 1856 in Denmark[21] and 1923 in Norway[22] were there laws requiring surnames.

The transmission of names across generations, marriages and other relationships, and immigration may cause difficulty in genealogical research. For instance, women in many cultures have routinely used their spouse's surnames. When a woman remarried, she may have changed her name and the names of her children; only her name; or changed no names. Her birth name (maiden name) may be reflected in her children's middle names; her own middle name; or dropped entirely.[23] Children may sometimes assume stepparent, foster parent, or adoptive parent names. Because official records may reflect many kinds of surname change, without explaining the underlying reason for the change, the correct identification of a person recorded identified with more than one name is challenging. Immigrants often Americanized their names.[24]

Surname data may be found in trade directories, census returns, birth, death, and marriage records.

Given names

Genealogical data regarding given names (first names) is subject to many of the same problems as are family names and place names. Additionally, the use of nicknames is very common. For example Beth, Lizzie or Betty are all common for Elizabeth, and Jack, John and Jonathan may be interchanged.

Middle names provide additional information. Middle names may be inherited, follow naming customs, or be treated as part of the family name. For instance, in some Latin cultures, both the mother's family name and the father's family name are used by the children.

Historically, naming traditions existed in some places and cultures. Even in areas that tended to use naming conventions, however, they were by no means universal. Families may have used them some of the time, among some of their children, or not at all. A pattern might also be broken to name a newborn after a recently deceased sibling, aunt or uncle.

An example of a naming tradition from England, Scotland and Ireland:

Child Namesake
1st son paternal grandfather
2nd son maternal grandfather
3rd son father
4th son father's oldest brother
1st daughter maternal grandmother
2nd daughter paternal grandmother
3rd daughter mother
4th daughter mother's oldest sister

Another example is in some areas of Germany, where siblings were given the same first name, often of a favourite saint or local nobility, but different second names by which they were known (Rufname). If a child died, the next child of the same gender that was born may have been given the same name. It is not uncommon that a list of a particular couple's children will show one or two names repeated.

Personal names have periods of popularity, so it is not uncommon to find many similarly-named people in a generation, and even similarly-named families; e.g., "William and Mary and their children David, Mary, and John".

Many names may be identified strongly with a particular gender; e.g., William for boys, and Mary for girls. Others may be ambiguous, e.g., Lee, or have only slightly variant spellings based on gender, e.g., Frances (usually female) and Francis (usually male).

Place names

While the locations of ancestors' residences and life events are core elements of the genealogist's quest, they can often be confusing. Place names may be subject to variant spellings by partially literate scribes. Locations may have identical or very similar names. For example, the village name Brockton occurs six times in the border area between the English counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire. Shifts in political borders must also be understood. Parish, county and national borders have frequently been modified. Old records may contain references to farms and villages that have ceased to exist. When working with older records from Poland, where borders and place names have changed frequently in past centuries, a source with maps and sample records such as A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents can be invaluable.

Available sources may include vital records (civil or church registration), censuses, and tax assessments. Oral tradition is also an important source, although it must be used with caution. When no source information is available for a location, circumstantial evidence may provide a probable answer based on a person's or a family's place of residence at the time of the event.

Maps and gazetteers are important sources for understanding the places researched. They show the relationship of an area to neighboring communities and may be of help in understanding migration patterns. Family tree mapping using online mapping tools such as Google Earth (particularly when used with Historical Map overlays such as those from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection) assist in the process of understanding the significance of geographical locations.


It is wise to exercise extreme caution with dates. Dates are more difficult to recall years after an event, and are more easily mistranscribed than other types of genealogical data.[25] Therefore, one should determine whether the date was recorded at the time of the event or at a later date. Dates of birth in vital records or civil registrations and in church records at baptism are generally accurate because they were usually recorded near the time of the event. Family Bibles are often a source for dates, but can be written from memory long after the event. When the same ink and handwriting is used for all entries, the dates were probably written at the same time and therefore will be less reliable since the earlier dates were probably recorded well after the event. The publication date of the Bible also provides a clue about when the dates were recorded since they could not have been recorded at any earlier date.

People sometimes reduce their age on marriage, and those under "full age" may increase their age in order to marry or to join the armed forces. Census returns are notoriously unreliable for ages or for assuming an approximate death date. Ages over 15 in the 1841 census in the UK are rounded down to the next lower multiple of five years.

Although baptismal dates are often used to approximate birth dates, some families waited years before baptizing children, and adult baptisms are the norm in some religions. Both birth and marriage dates may have been adjusted to cover for pre-wedding pregnancies.

Calendar changes must also be considered. In 1752, England and her American colonies changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. In the same year, the date the new year began was changed. Prior to 1752 it was 25 March; this was changed to 1 January. Many other European countries had already made the calendar changes before England had, sometimes centuries earlier. By 1751 there was an 11 day discrepancy between the date in England and the date in other European countries.

For further detail on the changes involved in moving from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, see: Gregorian calendar.

The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar proposed during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days in 1871 in Paris. Dates in official records at this time use the revolutionary calendar and need "translating" into the Gregorian calendar for calculating ages etc. There are various websites which do this.[26]


Occupational information may be important to understanding an ancestor’s life and for distinguishing two people with the same name. A person’s occupation may have been related to his or her social status, political interest, and migration pattern. Since skilled trades are often passed from father to son, occupation may also be indirect evidence of a family relationship.

It is important to remember that a person may change occupations, and that titles change over time as well. Some workers no longer fit for their primary trade often took less prestigious jobs later in life, while others moved upwards in prestige.[27] Many unskilled ancestors had a variety of jobs depending on the season and local trade requirements. Census returns may contain some embellishment; e.g., from Labourer to Mason, or from journeyman to Master craftsman. Names for old or unfamiliar local occupations may cause confusion if poorly legible. For example, an ostler (a keeper of horses) and a hostler (an innkeeper) could easily be confused for one another. Likewise, descriptions of such occupations may also be problematic. The perplexing description "ironer of rabbit burrows" may turn out to describe an ironer (profession) in the Bristol district named Rabbit Burrows. Several trades have regionally preferred terms. For example, "shoemaker" and "cordwainer" have the same meaning. Finally, many apparently obscure jobs are part of a larger trade community, such as watchmaking, framework knitting or gunmaking.

Occupational data may be reported in occupational licenses, tax assessments, membership records of professional organizations, trade directories, census returns, and vital records (civil registration). Occupational dictionaries are available to explain many obscure and archaic trades.[28]

Reliability of sources

Information found in historical or genealogical sources can be unreliable and it is good practice to evaluate all sources with a critical eye. Factors influencing the reliability of genealogical information include: the knowledge of the informant (or writer); the bias and mental state of the informant (or writer); the passage of time and the potential for copying and compiling errors.

The quality of census data has been of special interest to historians, who have investigated reliability issues.[29][25]

Knowledge of the informant

The informant is the individual who provided the recorded information. Genealogists must carefully consider who provided the information and what he or she knew. In many cases the informant is identified in the record itself. For example, a death certificate usually has two informants: a physician who provides information about the time and cause of death and a family member who provides the birth date, names of parents, etc.

When the informant is not identified, one can sometimes deduce information about the identity of the person by careful examination of the source. One should first consider who was alive (and nearby) when the record was created. When the informant is also the person recording the information, the handwriting can be compared to other handwriting samples.

When a source does not provide clues about the informant, genealogists should treat the source with caution. These sources can be useful if they can be compared with independent sources. For example, a census record by itself cannot be given much weight because the informant is unknown. However, when censuses for several years concur on a piece of information that would not likely be guessed by a neighbor, it is likely that the information in these censuses was provided by a family member or other informed person. On the other hand, information in a single census cannot be confirmed by information in an undocumented compiled genealogy since the genealogy may have used the census record as its source and might therefore be dependent on the same misinformed individual.

Motivation of the informant

Even individuals who had knowledge of the fact, sometimes intentionally or unintentionally provided false or misleading information. A person may have lied in order to obtain a government benefit (such as a military pension), avoid taxation, or cover up an embarrassing situation (such as the existence of a non-marital child). A person with a distressed state of mind may not be able to accurately recall information. Many genealogical records were recorded at the time of a loved one's death, and so genealogists should consider the effect that grief may have had on the informant of these records.

The effect of time

The passage of time often affects a person's ability to recall information. Therefore, as a general rule, data recorded soon after the event is usually more reliable than data recorded many years later. However, some types of data are more difficult to recall after many years than others. One type especially prone to recollection errors is dates. Also the ability to recall is affected by the significance that the event had to the individual. These values may have been affected by cultural or individual preferences.

Copying and compiling errors

Genealogists must consider the effects that copying and compiling errors may have had on the information in a source. For this reason, sources are generally categorized in two categories: original and derivative. An original source is one that is not based on another source. A derivative source is information taken from another source. This distinction is important because each time a source is copied, information about the record may be lost and errors may creep in from the copyist misreading, mistyping, or miswriting the information. Genealogists should consider the number of times information has been copied and the types of derivation a piece of information has undergone. The types of derivatives include: photocopies, transcriptions, abstracts, translations, extractions, and compilations.

In addition to copying errors, compiled sources (such as published genealogies and online pedigree databases) are susceptible to misidentification errors and incorrect conclusions based on circumstantial evidence. Identity errors usually occur when two or more individuals are assumed to be the same person. Circumstantial or indirect is evidence that does not explicitly answer a genealogical question, but either may be used with other sources to answer the question, suggest a probable answer, or eliminate certain possibilities. Compilers sometimes draw hasty conclusions from circumstantial evidence without sufficiently examining all available sources, without properly understanding the evidence, and without appropriately indicating the level of uncertainty.


GRAMPS is an example of genealogy software

Genealogy software is computer software used to collect, store, sort, and display genealogical data. At a minimum, genealogy software accommodates basic information about individuals, including births, marriages, and deaths. Many programs allow for additional biographical information, including occupation, residence, and notes, and most also offer a method for keeping track of the sources for each piece of evidence.

Most programs can generate basic kinship charts and reports, allow for the import of digital photographs and the export of data in the GEDCOM format so that data can be shared with those using other genealogy software. More advanced features include the ability to restrict the information that is shared, usually by removing information about living people out of privacy concerns; the import of sound files; the generation of family history books, web pages and other publications; the ability to handle same sex marriages and children born out of wedlock; searching the Internet for data; and the provision of research guidance.

Programs may be geared toward a specific religion, with fields relevant to that religion, or to specific nationalities or ethnic groups, with source types relevant for those groups.


The family tree of Confucius has been maintained for over 2,500 years, and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest extant family tree. The fifth edition of the Confucius Genealogy will be printed in 2009 by the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee (CGCC).[30][31]

See also


  1. ^ Ronald Bishop, "In the Grand Scheme of Things: An Exploration of the Meaning of Genealogical Research," Journal Of Popular Culture 2008 41(3): 393-412.
  2. ^ François Weil, "John Farmer and the Making of American Genealogy," New England Quarterly 2007 80(3): 408-434.
  3. ^ James B. Allen at al. "Hearts Turned To The Fathers," BYU Studies 1994-1995 34(2): 4-392
  4. ^ Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Genealogy in the 'Information Age': History's New Frontier?" National Genealogical Society Quarterly 91 (December 2003): 260-77.
  5. ^ Michelle Hudson, "The Effect of 'Roots' and the Bicentennial on Genealogical Interest among Patrons of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History," Journal of Mississippi History 1991 53(4): 321-336
  6. ^ Grow Your Family Tree in Salt Lake City - Genealogy is the Fastest Growing Hobby in North America
  7. ^ Recent Maritz Poll Shows Explosion in Popularity of Genealogy
  8. ^ Board for Certification of Genealogists. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2000); National Genealogical Society. American Genealogy (Arlington, Virginia: 2005); Val D. Greenwood. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 3d ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000)"
  9. ^ Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace" (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007).
  10. ^ Peter R. Knights, "City Directories as Aids to Ante-Bellum Urban Studies: A Research Note," Historical Methods Newsletter, Sept. 1969 2:1-9
  11. ^ Thea Miller, "The German registry: The evolution of a recordkeeping model," Archival Science Volume 3, Number 1 / March, 2003 pp 43-62; Michael Drake, "An Elementary Exercise in Parish Register Demography," Economic History Review Vol. 14, No. 3 (1962), pp. 427-445 in JSTOR
  12. ^ Verma, Binod Bihari (1973). Maithili Karna Kayasthak Panjik Sarvekshan (A Survey of the Panji of the Karan Kayasthas of Mithila). Madhepura: Krānti Bihārī Varmā. OCLC 20044508. 
  13. ^ Carolyn Brown Heinz. "Fieldnotes: !st lesson with the....Genealogist". Department of Anthropology, California State University, Chico. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  14. ^ Pranava K Chaudhary (3 April 2007). "Family records of Maithil Brahmins lost". India Times. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  15. ^ Donald Harman Akenson. Some Family: The Mormons and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007; Johni Cerny and Wendy Elliot. The Library: A Guide to the LDS Family History Library. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Pub., 1988.
  16. ^ Mark D. Herber, Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History 2nd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2006; David Hey, Family History and Local History in England. London: Longman, 1987; Sherry Irvine, Scottish Ancestry: Research Methods for Family Historians, 2nd ed. Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2003; David Moody, Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1990.
  17. ^ Trafford R. Cole, Italian Genealogical Records: How to Use Italian Civil, Ecclesiastical & Other Records in Family History Research Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1995; Cruise, M. T. W., Guidelines For Ancestry Research With an Emphasis on African-American Genealogy Dublin, VA: Author, 2007; Jessie Carney Smith, Ethnic Genealogy: A Research Guide, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983.
  18. ^ G. J. A. Guth. "Surname Spellings and Computerised Record Linkage," Historical Methods Newsletter, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 10-19, 1976.
  19. ^ Lorine McGinnis Schulze. "Dutch Patronymics of the 1600s". Olive Tree Genealogy. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  20. ^ Surnames made their way into the language in the 19th and 20th century, but are not widely used. In order to protect the patronymics system, in Iceland it is forbidden by law to introduce a new surname."Lög um Mannanöfn" (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  21. ^ An earlier law was in effect in 1828, but was largely ignored in the rural areas.
  22. ^ "Lov av 9. februar 1923 nr. 2 om personnavn (Norwegian Name Law of 1923)" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  23. ^ E. A. Wrigley, English population history from family reconstitution, 1580-1837 (1997); Catherine Quantin et al, "Which are the best identifiers for record linkage?," Informatics for Health and Social Care 2004, Vol. 29, No. 3-4, Pages 221-227
  24. ^ Marc Picard, "Genealogical Evidence and the Americanization of European Family Names," Names: American Name Society 2009 57(1): 30-51
  25. ^ a b Peter R. Knights, "The Accuracy of Age Reporting in the Manuscript Federal Census of 1850 and 1860," Historical Methods Newsletter, 4 (1971), 79-83; Karen Oppenheim Mason and Lisa G. Cope. "Sources of Age and Date-of-Birth Misreporting in the 1900 U.S. Census," Demography vol. 24, no. 4 (Nov., 1987), pp. 563-573.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Robert M. Hauser, "Occupational status in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries" Historical Methods Newsletter (1982) vol. 15, no. 3, 111-126.
  28. ^ For example, United States Bureau of Employment Security, The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (1939)
  29. ^ Richard H. Steckel, "The Quality of Census Data for Historical Inquiry: A Research Agenda," Social Science History, vol. 15, no. 4 (Winter, 1991), pp. 579-599.
  30. ^ "New Confucius Genealogy out next year". China Internet Information Center. 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  31. ^ "Updated Confucius family tree has two million members". Xinhua News Agency. February 16, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 

Further reading

  • Ching, Frank. Ancestors: 900 Years in the Life of a Chinese Family. (1988).
  • Christian, Peter. The Genealogist's Internet. 2nd ed. 2009. ISBN 1905615396
  • Durie, Bruce. Scottish Genealogy (2009)
  • Eales, Anne Bruner and Kvasnicka, Robert M., eds. Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives (National Archives: 2000)
  • Hering, Katharina. "'A Very Busy Part of the State Library:' Genealogy at the State Library and Archives of Pennsylvania," Pennsylvania History Autumn 2009, Vol. 76 Issue 4, pp 494-503
  • McClure, Rhonda (2002). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Alpha. ISBN 0028642678. 
  • Malka, Jeffrey S. Sephardic Genealogy (2009)
  • Prinke, Rafal T. "Pedigree in the Machine: The Past and the Future of Genealogical Computing," History and Computing; 2000 12(2): 141-161
  • Rose, Christine. Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures. San Jose, CA: CR Publications, 2004. ISBN 0929626168
  • Saar, Martin. "Genealogy and Subjectivity" European Journal of Philosophy 10.2 (2002): 231–45 - how people discover the "story of one’s becoming"
  • Simpson, Jack. Basics of Genealogy Reference: A Librarian's Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2008. ISBN 9781591585145
  • Smith, Marian L. "American Names: Declaring Independence" - article on immigrant name changes by the former senior historian for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (now CIS)
  • Taylor, Robert M., and Ralph S. Crandall. Generations and Change: Genealogical Perspectives in Social History. Mercer University Press, 1986.

External links



  • FamilySearch Wiki Newly developed wiki hosted by
  • WeRelate - GFDL-licensed, Mediawiki software-based genealogy wiki in partnership with the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States
  • Rodovid The Global genealogy, over 19 language.
  • WikiTree - One of the main aims of the WikiTree Project is to provide a central place on the internet for kin information about all people we know ever lived and automatically construct bloodline trees.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

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Genealogy is the research of one's family history (or someone else's). What is included in "family history" varies depending on the individual researcher.

There's a Table of Contents on every page that will help you navigate the pages. If you want to skip to a certain page, look below.


Table of contents

For everyone

Area-specific (not forgetting that countries change names and borders)


External links

Genealogy sites

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki


—Biblical Data:

A list, in the order of succession, of ancestors and their descendants. The Pentateuchal equivalent for "genealogies" is "toledot" (generations), the verb being (image) in the "ḳal" and "hif'il" forms. The later form is (image) (Neh. vii. 5), and the verb "hityaḥes" (to enroll oneself or be enrolled by genealogy). In later Hebrew, as in Aramaic, the term (image) and its derivatives "yiḥus" and "yuḥasin" recur with the implication of legitimacy or nobility of birth.

The following genealogical lists are given as far as possible in the order in which they occur in the Hebrew canon:


Adamites (with historical glosses): Adam; Cain; Enoch; Irad; Mehujael; Methusael; Lamech—seven generations, becoming, with the eighth, two parallel streams, (1) Jabal and his brother Jubal, (2) their half-brother Tubal-cain and his sister Naamah (Gen. iv. 1-24: Cainites).


Adamites (with chronological details): Adam: Seth; Enos; Cainan; Mahalaleel; Jared; Enoch; Methuselah; Lamech; Noah—ten generations, the eleventh comprising (1) Shem, (2) Ham, (3) Japheth (Sethites).


The Noahites, divided into (1) Shemites, (2) Hamites, (3) Japhethites—the "ethnic table," or "list of nations" (Gen. x. 1-31).


Abraham's pedigree, from Shem downward, enumerating ten generations (Gen. xi. 10-26).


Rebekah's pedigree, from Nahor through Milcah, with mention of collateral line through his father's concubine Reumah (Gen. xxii. 20-24).


Abrahamites through Keturah (Gen. xxv. 1-4).


Abrahamites through the line of Ishmael (Gen. xxv. 12-18: Ishmaelites).


Abrahamites through Isaac and Esau = Edom (Gen. xxxvi. 1-43).


Jacob's (= Israel's) descendants (Gen. xxxv. 23-27, xlvi. 8-28: seventy souls).


The pedigree of Moses, enumerating the "heads of their fathers' houses" of the sons of Reuben, the sons of Simeon, the sons of Levi: (1) Gershon, (2) Kohath, (3) Merari. Out of Kohath came Amram, from whom came (a) Moses and (b) Aaron; the pedigree continues the chain of descent, after mentioning side lines, through Aaron's son Eleazar to Phinehas (Ex. vi. 14-25).


A register of the Israelites as a nation—in which Levi, however, is omitted—grouped under the heads: "generations" ( (image) ), "family" or "clan" ( (image) ), and "fathers' house" ( (image) : Num. i. 1-47). This is, strictly speaking, a censusroll.


The tribal list (Num. ii. 1-33), also a census-roll.


The genealogy of the Aaronites (Num. iii. 1-5).


The genealogy of the Levites (Num. iii. 17-39), with data concerning their respective assignments to service in the sanctuary.


A list of the Israelites, with reference to division and occupation of territory (Num. xxvi. 1-51).


The families of the Levites (Num. xxvi. 57-61), with details concerning the births of Aaron, Moses, and Miriam, and the names and fate of Aaron's sons.


The "genealogy of those that went up with me [Ezra] from Babylon" (Ezra viii. 1-14; the list of "the children of the province that went up out of the Captivity" [Ezra ii. 1 et seq.] is in reality not a genealogy, but is of importance as bearing upon the standing of their descendants in the congregation of Israel.)


Ezra's own pedigree (Ezra vii. 1-6).


A list with genealogical notes concerning priests that had taken strange wives, and of Levites, and, moreover, of Israelites (Ezra x. 18 et seq.).


Genealogies of certain of the descendants of Judah and Benjamin (Neh. xi. 4 et seq.).


List of priests and Levites (Neh. xii. 1-26).


The pedigree of Adamites from Adam to Noah (I Chron. i. 1-3), continued through the Noahites, with details of the genealogical descent of the Hamites and Japhethites (2-23), and non-Israelitish Shemites down to the kings of Edom (23-54).


Genealogy of the sons of Israel (I Chron. ii. 1-33) down to Jerahmeel, continued (1) in the part Egyptian line of Sheshan through his daughter's marriage to Jarha the Egyptian (34-41); and (2) in the family of Caleb (42-55), coming down to David.


David's pedigree (Ruth iv. 18-22).


The descendants of David (II Sam. iii. 3-5, v. 14-16; I Chron. iii. 1-9; compare xiv. 4-7), of Solomon, of Jehoiakim (verse 16), of the sons of Jeconiah, of Pedaiah, of Zerubbabel, and of Hananiah (I Chron. iii. 10-21).


Genealogy of Judah and Simeon (I Chron. iv.).


Genealogy of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe Manasseh (I Chron. v.).


The genealogy of the Levites, according to families (I Chron. vi.), of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher (vii.), and of the Benjamites (viii.) and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (ix.).

Genealogies of Priests.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

Rabbinical sources show that with the dominance of Ezra's influence and ideas importance came to be attached to genealogies. Ezra would not leave Babylon until he had succeeded in establishing the genealogical relations of the new Israel to a degree of fineness resembling that of the finest flower (Ḳid. 69b). His own pedigree, too, he had been careful to verify (B. B. 15a). Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah were in fact regarded as (image) (image) ("scrolls of genealogies"), as (image) (image) (B. B. 15a; Pes. 62). That the Exile and the subsequent vicissitudes had heavily impaired tribal and racial purity was nevertheless recognized (see the discussion between R. Joshua and R. Gamaliel: Yer. Ḳid. iv. 1). But for the priests purity of descent was indispensable. Hence their genealogies were scrupulously kept and, when necessary, minutely investigated. A special officer seems to have been entrusted with these records, and a court of inquiry is mentioned as having been instituted in Jerusalem (Ḳid. 76b). The testimony of Josephus corroborates the fact that a record of the pedigrees of the priests was kept (Josephus, "Contra Ap." i., § 7; "Vita," § 1). A priest was bound to demonstrate the purity of the pedigree of the priestly maiden he desired to wed, even as far back as her great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother. In the case of marriage with a daughter of Levi or of Israel his scrutiny had to extend a degree further (Ḳid. iv. 4). Exemptions depending upon the presumption created in favor of credibility and honorableness by general reputation or public service, were admitted (Ḳid. iv. 5). The very division of Israel into "houses" presupposes among them the existence of well-authenticated genealogies. Such divisions are mentioned in connection with the furnishing of wood (Ta'an. iv. 5: "house of Arak, tribe of Judah"; comp. Ezra ii. 5; Neh. vii. 10; "house of David, tribe of Judah"; comp. Ezra viii. 2; "men of unknown pedigree" are also named). Hillel's pedigree is quoted (Yer. Ta'an. iv. 68a, bottom). Ben 'Azzai also speaks of a (image) ("genealogical record"; Yeb. 49b).

Loss of Genealogies.

It is assumed that under Herod I. all genealogical rolls kept in the Temple were destroyed (Sachs, "Beiträge," ii. 157). The loss of official genealogies was deeply deplored as a calamity, more especially because of their importance for the understanding of the books of Chronicles (Pes. 62b; B. B. 109). How prolific these Biblical books were in provoking genealogical conceits is shown by the statement that 900 camel-loads of commentary existed on I Chron. viii. 37 to ix. 44 (Pes. 62b). Much mischief must have been done by this speculation on family origins and pedigrees; at least the provision requiring caution in instruction in genealogy and limiting the hours for it (Pes. 76) would seem to indicate as much. Family pride is rebuked also in the familiar saying that a "mamzer" (bastard), if learned in the Law, outranked an ignorant high priest (Hor. 11); in fact, the priestly insistence upon purity of pedigree was fully counterbalanced by the demand for knowledge, which, through Phariseeism (nobility of learning) as opposed to Sadduceeism (priestly nobility), gradually succeeded in developing a new aristocracy, that of the mind, in the place of the old one (Ẓadoḳite) of blood. Many stories preserve the memory of the struggle for recognition of the one or the other claim to distinction which agitated learned and unlearned Israel in the early Christian centuries (Ḳid. 70a, 71a, b).

Of spurious genealogies, specimens of which Sprenger ("Das Leben und die Lehre Mohammad") adduces, Jewish literature has a goodly number to show (Seder 'Olam Zuṭa; Zunz, "G. V." 2d ed., 1892, pp; 142 et seq. ; Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, Asher's ed., ii. 6 et seq.). Yet this is not proof that all the pedigrees current among Jews were of this class (Zunz, "Analekten," No. 15, p. 46). The tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, according to Midr. R. to Num. xiii., preserved while in Egypt their "yiḥus" (genealogy) to prove the purity and legitimacy of their descent. Upon this yiḥus the Jews have always laid great stress, as have also the Gentiles (Yeb. 62a; Yer. Yeb. ii. 4a). Marriage was invalidated if any deception regarding one's yiḥus was discovered, even if the actual rank was higher than the assumed (Yer. Ḳid. ii. 62c). Silence when taunted with low origin creates the presumption that the person taunted is of high stock (Ḳid. 71b). (image) , the "chain of genealogies," is spoken of (Gen. R. lxxxii.), and the word (image) has passed into literature to designate historical annals.

Bibliography: Hamburger, R. B. T. ii.

—Critical View:

The genealogical lists of Genesis, as well as those that are meant to account for the origin and subdivisions of the Israelitish tribes, are similar to the tables which were current, first orally and then in written form, among the Arabs. These lists illustrate the theory obtaining in early Semitic civilization, according to which the tribe—the central unit of every institution—was looked upon as the progeny of one common ancestor, assumed, in many cases, as the eponym. Historical, geographical, and ethnological data and reminiscences are spontaneously (not artificially or intentionally) expressed in the terms of this theory. Geographical or racial propinquity is indicated by the degree of relationship ascribed to the component elements. Political supremacy and dependence are reflected in the assumption ofdescent on the one hand in direct line from the first-born, on the other in a collateral line, sometimes traced through a concubine or a second wife, perhaps the bondmaid of the ancestor's legitimate spouse.

Tribal Relations Indicated.

Septs and subdivisions are ranked in the tribal tree according to their numbers or importance, either as branches or as continuing the main trunk. Conversely, the descendants of groups originally not connected with the tribe, but in course of time incorporated into it, are characterized as offshoots, the issue of illegitimate conjugal unions (comp. W. R. Smith, "Marriage and Kinship in Early Arabia," passim; Wellhausen, "Die Ehe bei den Arabern"; see also Government). Concrete illustrations of the foregoing view may be seen in the genealogies of the Hebrew tribes and clans e.g., Benjamin, Dan, and Esau.

The many discrepancies among the various genealogies are not due exclusively to imperfections of memory and the vicissitudes to which tradition is always exposed. Changes in geographical and political relations, as well as in religious views, are often reflected in these variations, the subject of the genealogy or a component part of it appearing at one time as the son or descendant of one person, while at another he is named as a member of some other family. It must be remembered that these genealogies are not all of one age. The institution of the blood covenant, by which are established relationships as close as natural ones (see Brother), may also underlie these variants and discrepancies.

Genealogies in Genesis.

In some of the genealogies of Genesis, however, intentional readjustments of the traditional material come clearly to the surface, as in the twofold genealogy of Noah. He is a Cainite in one; a Sethite in the other. To the Cainites later historiog, raphy and theology ascribe the corruption of the pre-Noachian race (see Enoch; Fall of Angels; Flood, in Rabbinical Literature). This midrashic and pseudepigraphic view represents an ancient popular tradition probably antedating by centuries the written form in the Apocrypha or the Haggadah. To the desire to disconnect Noah from Cain's seed, the second genealogy with its but thinly disguised duplications of the first owes its origin. The so-called "List of Nations" (Gen. x.), while showing in what degree the peoples of which the ancient Hebrews had knowledge were regarded as related to the Israelites, reflects geographical and not ethnological data, the nations being ranged in the main under three great geographical zones. As now preserved, the chapter is not free from indications of being a composite of several ethnic-geographic lists.

That place-names and districts figure in many of the genealogies as individuals is beyond dispute; even arts and musical accomplishments come near being represented as "sons" (Gen. iv. 21). The necessity for keeping accurate genealogical lists in pre-exilic Israel is not apparent. Neither for the regulation of the royal succession nor for the division of inherited property was proof of legitimate descent imperatively needed. By far the greatest number of genealogies of individuals occur in the post-exilic books: elsewhere individual genealogies rarely go back further than one or two generations. No mention is made of any officer appointed to keep the records. Nor was pre-exilic Israel jealous of racial purity (comp. Gen. xxxviii.); sacerdotal preoccupation in this regard is post-exilic (Ezraic). The genealogies of Genesis exhibit a strong realization of the unity of the human race, while framed to assign to Israel a distinct place in the economy of the human family. From Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob a continuous process of selection is posited in the scheme. This is the ethical aspect and value of these genealogies.

The Influence of the Exile.

The Exile stimulated genealogical zeal (Ezek. xiii. 9). The old tribal organization had passed away. A spiritual factor took its place as the uniting and differentiating energy, the congregation gradually but steadily adjusting itself to the tripartite scheme: priest (Zadokite), Levite, and Israel, with Israel as a "holy seed." To this new attitude must be ascribed in the exilic and early post-exilic congregation the rise of many Levitical and other genealogies, constructed on data such as memory could supply and skill could marshal to good effect, some of which are undoubtedly at the basis of the genealogical lists in Ezra-Nehemiah. and Chronicles. These first attempts were not very complex in plan (see, for instance, Ezra ii. 40, iii. 9; Neh. ix. 4; Num. xxvi. 58; see also Levi). But as the Ezraic construction of Israel's past and part came to triumph, the "Levitizing" purpose asserted itself in ever greater measure; and the lists of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah display the overruling passion. That of the high priests (I Chron. vi. 3-15, v. 29-41) is altogether typical of the sacerdotal view-point, in which the Zadokites are exalted. Moreover, it is virtually a duplicate of Ezra's genealogy (Ezra vii. 1; comp. I Esd. viii. 2 and II Esd. i. 7).

Bibliography: W. R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, Cambridge, 1885; Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1887, vol. i.; Guthe, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1899; Sellin, Studien zur Enstehungsgesch. der Jüdischen Gemeinde nach dem Babylonischen Exil. 1901; Eduard Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judenthums, 1896; Wellhausen, Israelitische und Jüdische Gesch. 5th ed., 1899; idem, De Gentihus et Familiis quœ in I Chron. ii. 4 Enumerantur, 1870; Smend, Die Listen der Bücher Ezra und Nehemiah, 1881; Hastings, Dict. Bible, and Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. s.v. Genealogies.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
Facts about GenealogyRDF feed


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

Genealogy is the study of family histories and ancestral lines.

Wikipedia has a page called:

Many of the pages that are not specific to the subject-matter of genealogy but are to do with the administration or editing of this site - those in the "project" namespace - have pagenames starting with "Genealogy:" in accordance with the naming standard that is adopted on most Wikia sites.

See also

External links

  • Genealogy index at Wikipedia.
  • Categorization discussion and principles at Wikipedia.

This page is a "stub" and could be improved by additions and other edits.

Facts about GenealogyRDF feed

This article uses material from the "Genealogy" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

Genealogy is the study of family history. It is the study of family relationships and ancestry. It is a popular hobby in the United States and in many other countries.

Some people show their family history using a family tree. A family tree is a diagram of the members of a family. With a family tree you use lines to show how people are related, for example, people who are married or have children.

Some people keep track of their family history data in a genealogy database on their computer. Examples of data that a person would save are dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Other information that might be saved are records of military service, census records which show where ancestors lived at a certain time, immigration data, education, occupations, and even photos of the ancestors. The person building the database can usually decide to save many kinds data--news articles, stories that were told in the family (oral history), information on religious ceremonies, wills or inheritances, information from family letters, customs, or how world or local events affected the family. The advantages of using a genealogy database are that it helps to keep the data organized, especially when relationships change; it can generate several types of charts or tables with the data filled in; it may make it easier to share data with others; and it takes up less room than paper and notebooks.

People study genealogy (family history) for many reasons. They may want to help someone be reunited with their family after war, natural disasters, foster care, or adoption, or find living relatives. They may want to learn about their ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc) from hundreds of years ago. They may want to track hereditary diseases that may be passed from parents to their children. (This would overlap with the study of genetics.)

Some people used to (and some still do) study genealogy to keep track of wealth, land and power because people used to argue that it belongs to their family. These people use genealogy to help it stay in the family and prevent untruthful claims to the wealth, land or power.

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