Why People Start Researching their Genealogy and Ancestral History

Interest in family histories has really boomed over the past decade, helped along by the hit TV series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, not to mention the new ease of internet access to Genealogy archives. The TV show has now been adapted for viewers on a global scale, highlighting just how interested everyone is in finding out about their predecessors. But what motivates people to start studying their genealogy? Is it just curiosity or are there other reasons for the fascination and wonderment created by the discovery of our roots?


For some of us, identifying living relatives can simply be a matter of life and death. In the event of a serious accident or illness, locating genetically similar individuals can be crucial and life-preserving.


Connection with older ancestors on an emotional level brings a great sense of discovery to many but very often it seems to begin with a recent bereavement. Researching the childhood of a newly-lost parent or grandparent helps to maintain an emotional connection during what is often a difficult and overwhelming bereavement process. The subsequent exploration going back in time through the generations comes as a natural extension of that research. Genealogy is therapeutic.

Leaving a Mark

Some people start a journey into Genealogy to make a different kind of connection. Still familial and still generational, but in these cases the motivation is a connection with generations yet to come, rather than those that have gone before. Genealogy is a legacy that can be left for our children and their children to continue after we have passed on. It is an heirloom, a way of leaving a mark and of getting noticed by our descendants who may one day themselves decide to delve into their personal family histories.

Identification and simple curiosity

Perhaps you have an unexplained physical trait like being born dark to a blond haired family. How reassuring to know that one of your great-great-grandparents was of Middle Eastern appearance! You may well want to know more about the ancestor who bestowed your special attribute upon you. Maybe it’s a psychological character trait that sets you apart. On ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Billy Connolly was delighted to discover one of his ancestors was a drinking philanderer. Are these genetic dispositions? In any event it brought him perceptible joy. Imagine then, being a musician, painter or dancer and discovering ancestors with similar talents and livelihoods as your own. Whoever you are and wherever you come from, personal identity matters.

Whatever the reason for starting your quest into the past, whatever you are looking for, discovering your family history is likely to be a rewarding and gratifying experience for both you and your family.

Read more about discovering your family and ancestral history in our other articles or why not start searching today with a free account on British-Genealogy.com