Genealogy is the study of family history. It is the study of family relationships and ancestry (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.). 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 have an interest in history and want to know how and where their family lived during interesting times of history.
- They may want to track hereditary diseases that may be passed from parents to their children. (This would overlap with the study of genetics.)
- The Mormons believe that they can give baptisms and other religious rites to their ancestors to help them in the afterlife. This belief drives them to find as many of their ancestors as they can, and they have collected many genealogy records from around the world.
- Some people use genealogy to keep track of money, land and power so that they can inherit what belongs to their family. These people use genealogy to help it stay in the family and prevent false claims to the wealth, land or power.