Are There Any Real Benefits to Genealogy or Family History?
There is an expression that happiness is best when shared. The same can be said of family history and genealogy. Once you know the unique stories and experiences of your ancestors, you will probably want to pass them on to other members of your kinship. Your family is not likely to gather around you for story time or show and tell, but there are subtle ways to share your shared legacy and heritage. Not everyone will particularly care about and understand all of the names and dates, but most family members appreciate hearing where they have come from and how their ancestors fit into a greater historical narrative. There is an intangible value to knowing your story and how pieces of it are shared with your cousins, siblings, etc.
Are there any practical reasons to study family history? Here are a few:
Medical histories– Many medical conditions are passed down (at least in part) through our genes. Knowing about your parents and grandparents could help you understand potential risks in your own body. If great-great-great grandfather had a heart attack, that may not be cause for concern. After all, his condition was probably not well documented and you also have 31 other great-great-great grandparents floating around in your DNA.
Incest avoidance– Believe it or not, many people marry and produce offspring with their first, second, or third cousins. The medical risks are incest are reduced in more distant kinship, but there is still a strong social stigma attached to marrying your family members. So learn your tree, and do not forget it when you are hunting for a mate!
Property disputes– Census records and family histories are sometimes used in land disputes.
Religious or spiritual customs– The biggest proponent of family tree research in the United States is the Church of Latter-Day Saints. A major part of this reason is their practice of performing rituals in proxy of their deceased ancestors. For these believers, there is a very real and important benefit to learning the identity of their ancestors.
Family Folklore– Researching your history is a great way to solve some of those old family legends. You may be surprised!
I think the main advantage to learning your own history is the perspective it gives you and your relatives. Can you think of any other advantages?