What is Genealogy?

From Greek "genos" and "logos", meaning respectively "birth" and "science", we can say that genealogy is the science of birth - a little etymology, it does not hurt! Genealogy is a practice that seeks to find one's ancestors and situate them in time so as to learn more about one's ethnic, social, and geographical origins, as well as the way of life of one's ancestors. An adjoining science of history, it can be done by a professional genealogist or in a personal way.

There are different types of genealogy:
- the ascending genealogy, which aims to search for the ancestors of a person
- the descending genealogy, which consists in looking for the descendants of a person
- the estate genealogy, which is practiced by professionals at the request of a notary during a succession
- the agnatic genealogy, which focuses only on the male ancestry of a person
- Cognitive genealogy, which aims to search for ascendants and descendants who do not have the same name.

Before becoming the true social phenomenon that it is today, we will see that genealogy is one of the oldest sciences in the history of humanity!

History of Genealogy

Genealogy: From Antiquity to the Renaissance

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"Marcus, father of Octavius, son of Tullus, grandson of Maximus and great-grandson of Lucius," we can read on a Roman inscription. We can detect in each of the great ancient civilizations a particular attachment, sometimes of divine order, to the knowledge of their filiation.

The Bible, and especially Genesis, appears as a descendant genealogical treatise that was to distinguish the tribes, define their mutual hierarchy and show that the elect of God descend from the first man created by the latter. Greek mythology also drew the genealogy of his gods and heroes. Arab civilizations represent themselves as the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad and also attach great importance to their filiation: some say that their particularity of writing from right to left testifies to this attitude turned to the past. Finally, it is important to note the cultural relationship between the Chinese and their ancestors represented by funerary tables, welcoming the offerings of their descendants.

The Middle Ages was interested in genealogy for strictly religious and practical reasons: the canon law prohibiting the marriage between two beings linked by the same blood, it was necessary to prove the non-consanguinity by a "genealogical chart". But it was especially during the Renaissance that genealogy developed as a science and that the profession of "genealogist" appeared. However, in France, it applied only to male nobles because it was intended to justify certain titles of nobility and grant the tax privileges, transmitting only men to men.

The "New Genealogy"

After the French Revolution, the men of the fledgling bourgeoisie sought their service from pseudo-genealogists in order to restore their lineage, discrediting the discipline. It is from the second half of the nineteenth century that genealogy stands out from the status of "pseudo-science" it had until then to reach that of "science". She an object: filiation; a method: analogous to that of historical research, which consists in studying the documents of the past in order to draw hypotheses and conclusions; a goal: to establish a story on a family scale. However, how can it be explained that it has become since a few decades as popular and practiced by so many amateurs?

This passion for genealogy is the result of several historical events that have resulted in the dispersal of many families, such as industrial eras or the economic "boom" of the 1960s, and therefore, a desire for countless people to go back to the sources and to find their roots. Today, access to many types of documents (civil status, family booklets etc.), advances in genetics, the emergence of psychogenealogy and specialized digital software encourage many curious to start genealogical research by themselves. Some polls show that 60% of French people are interested in their genealogy, so we can not deny the phenomenon of society that has become. Associations, specialized magazines, guides, books have multiplied to help contemporary man subject to migration and economic realities to better identify.

How to do Genealogical Research

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Where do I start my genealogy research? To guide your research, it is essential to answer the following question: What research do I want to do? The genealogical research can be more or less extensive: you can very well search all the people who make up your family tree, as to study only one branch of the tree. In this case, you put together all the bearers of the same family name, which is an agnatic genealogy.

In the case of studying only female lines, we will speak of cognitive genealogy. You can go much further and for example study the history of a village by reconstituting all families through parish registers, civil status and notarial deeds. If you can not wait to take action and search for your ancestors, you can read this short guide which lists all official documents and essential parts for an ambitious genealogical research.

Origin of surnames

Did you know that your last name can tell you a lot about your origins ? A simple last name can give you information on the geographical origin of your ancestors, on their social origin, their professions, their regions of residence, their characters, and sometimes even their hair color! If you want to know more, you can read our article specially dedicated to the origins of surnames.

What is genetic genealogy?

Genetics, defined as a science studying the characters and laws of heredity based on genetic information from chromosome, gene and DNA analysis, is playing an increasingly important role in genealogical research and the research of our genetics origins. Genetic genealogy, based on DNA tests, provides two types of information:
- a cartographic representation of the migratory route of a part of your ancestors and a better knowledge of your geographical origins
- The recognition of a relationship with unknown cousins, close or very distant, can therefore help to deepen his family tree. DNA research in genetic genealogy allows scientists to classify humans into a number of genetic groups from a common ancestor they call "haplogroups".

What is psychogenealogy?

Recently introduced, this discipline linking psychoanalysis and genealogy is to give, for certain behaviors, traumas or neuroses, a genealogical foundation. In other words, we would all be "inhabited" by a multitude of parents who, without realizing it, would influence our decisions, our ways of thinking, of behaviors. Mating psychoanalysis / genealogy would help us to realize, measure and control the influence of the family environment, lived or inherited.
Jason Kelly Thompson, specialist of psychogenealogy, explains more about this practice in this blog.

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