Genealogy 101

The fastest growing hobby in the world, genealogy, is also a booming trend industry. With the availability of DNA testing kits, people can now discover fascinating data about their family roots while obtaining vital medical information to identify potential risk factors in their own health. Colleges and universities worldwide are offering Bachelors and Masters degrees in forensic genealogy, genetic genealogy, and sociological genealogy.  Degreed graduates are earning upwards of six figure incomes, while certified genealogists are averaging $71,000 per year.  A booming industry indeed!  

Why Genealogy?

Everyone wants to belong, and tracing family roots back through generations helps a person to connect more deeply to oneself, within a greater context of time and place to the past. Exploring the unknown past of your family - where they came from, who they were, how they lived within their communities, the trials they overcame, their accomplishments, their dreams - can ignite the imagination and focus of any person at any age.

Small mysteries in a family's history can become an engaging quest, as one question answered leads to yet another unanswered question. Families are brought together around a common interest, and inspired to tell intergenerational stories that reconnect them in surprising ways.

Besides the stories, creating mementos, and the vital medical information that can be obtained during DNA and genealogy research, history comes alive.  Where people were generally less interested in the mundane way history has been taught to the masses, personal family history connections can spark more questions about history itself. A particular war or historical battle becomes personal.  Sociological and cultural patterns become personal. Ideologies and theologies of humanity become personal.  When history becomes personal, we are less likely to repeat the bad parts of it, and more likely to seek and restore the good parts.

How does one start to research?

It's quite exciting once you begin, but also daunting if you try to use a search engine to learn where to start.  There is so much of people repeating incorrect information, that you can quickly go down the wrong path and waste time, which is discouraging.  The best way to start is with what you absolutely have facts for, which is yourself.  Get a free account at, put yourself in there, and then your immediate family - you will want full names, vital dates of birth, marriage, death, etc., for as many as you know.  If you know your grammy is about 80 years old, then estimate her birth year, you can change it later.  Go get some ice cream and wait a few days.  Soon, hints will start to propagate and you will be on your way.

The next step is learning how to discern the hints - they are not always relevant. Personal family research is a layman's hobby, and mistakes are made more often than you would think.  You can learn the hard way as I did, or simplify by taking the workshop here at The Simple Scholar. 

Once you understand how to discern hints, you will want to learn how to properly search for information that you want - there are efficient, effective ways, and of course there are time-wasting, inefficient ways.  Between hints and searching, you are opening up a portal to another world, be prepared for a fascinating journey!

How do you get children involved?

The personal connection to history is something that I am passionate about. My children became engaged in history by finding ancestors who had stories connected to specific historical events.  History books talk about wars and memorizing dates and treaties and outcomes.  I often tell how my kids would sleep on their history textbook because it was so boring, but they perked up when I would show them a story of an ancestor who had a particular struggle or even something good come out of that time. Suddenly, they were asking more questions about the Civil War, the American Revolution, and any other historical event that they had been so uninterested in before, and the textbooks were set aside.  They were taught how to remember significant dates in a way that other curricula does not teach.  They were not only eager to learn history, but eager to participate in personal family research.  Thousands of educators have purchased my instruction guides, both in the private home education sector as well as the public school sector.  At The Simple Scholar, there is an amazing workshop to help you explore how to leverage your own family genealogy to teach history.  It is part of the Premium Membership.  I'm also writing and in the process of publishing historical fiction, which will include supplemental curriculum for educators.

By The Simple Scholar

August 6, 2021

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