- Countries of origin
- Why study family history?
- Is it family history research? or geneaology?
- End notes
Countries of origin :
The following is a list of countries from which our direct and collateral ancestors have originated during the past several hundred years. Each country page features an index to surname pages and further information about those family lines.
To a lesser extent than the countries listed above, Sweden and Denmark are also in the genetic mix. However, these origins appear to date back many generations and, therefore, have proven difficult to trace.
Biographical sketches, family tree snippets, genealogical puzzles, military service records, stories of emigration, and other items of genealogical interest are sorted by surname.
Why study family history?
The most commonly cited reason for studying family history is to discover your family’s places of origin. Some suspect that the age-old oral tradition, held dear by the family, might not stand up to scrutiny when consulting the records. Admittedly, the act of disabusing “family historians” of their most cherished beliefs carries a risk. This writer has suffered some of the slings and arrows of relatives’ pique while reporting the facts. These have taken the form of petulance, obstinate disagreement while presented with documentary evidence, and shunning. (My dear friend, M.G., did warn me!)
Of course, some attempt to find famous ancestors, hoping that some of the lustre attaching to such an illustrious person will somehow then adhere to them. — My maternal grandfather used to say that we descended from the Black Douglas, and indeed I did find a hereditary line going back to Robert the Bruce. However, millions of descendants can make the same claims!
It is very understandable that people who have lost touch with their near relatives might want to discover “who they are” or where they came from, and to rediscover cultural identity. Examples of children torn away from families and transported to other continents and cultures are legion. Even with safe landings and good outcomes, such personal histories began with a traumatic severance.
For my own part, family history entails learning about the origins of our recent near relatives (i.e., grandparents and great grandparents) — where they came from, the times and social conditions in which they lived. This study has also extended to deeper family history, that is, our great-great grandparents and earlier, but still within the period called modern history. The identification of several hundred people, their vital statistics or when they were hatched, matched, and despatched, and where these and other life events occurred, have served as a framework for studying local history in the first instance, and otherwise, to attempt an understanding of the broader historical sweep of events in which our ancestors, and others, lived.
Is it family history research? or geneaology?
Are these two terms the same? If not, how do they differ? The short answer is, it depends whom you ask.
Many people say that they mean the same thing and are interchangeable. The Oxford Reference defines genealogy as, “a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor.” This definition suggests that tracing one’s lineal descent constitutes genealogical research. However, some definitions add relationship and history to the meaning, for example the Cambridge Dictionary, viz.—”(the study of) the history of the past and present members of a family or families.” Now we have descent + family + history making up the study and practice of genealogy.
Though some would argue otherwise, we opine that the phrase, family history, runs closer to the Cambridge definition. This study goes beyond the accumulation of names, dates, and places by examining sociological facets such as socio-economic conditions, cultural identity, career and vocation, and community connection, to name a few. Sometimes it is difficult to parse these sociological bits and pieces, as they interrelate and often, correlate. The latter word is the stuff of social change.
While social change is a line of research beyond the scope of this website, the editor will exercise her prerogative by pointing out historical social inequities or the mechanisms which led to same, e.g., colonialism. This is our shared human history, and we endeavour to present it honestly and unvarnished. For example, occasionally you will see a note appended to such extracts or transcripts containing language which is no longer acceptable. Similarly, where our ancestors enslaved people or compelled labour by force or by duress, these facts will be reported frankly. Again, such actions and entanglements form part of our collective social history:—for better or for worse, flawed or noteworthy.
End notes :
Source citation for this page: — Kilpatrick, Alison. “Family history research interests (Introduction).” Home page for family history studies by Alison Kilpatrick, featuring a collage of old family photographs compiled & edited by Alison Kilpatrick ©2020; online at Arborealis, arborealis.ca/family-history/, accessed [Insert date of access].
Updated 1st Nov. 2023.