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Part 1


21st century genealogy research is not just like genealogy research made in the past.

It is modern genealogy research because it is now related to high technology devices, available online and easily compiled with the help of powerful computer genealogy programs. It is also a different type of research. People who take time to make a family tree just don’t make it to have a gorgeous tree with people’s names, dates and places.

They do no longer do it because they want to prove something like some others had to do it in the past, to show that they belonged to a long nobility line for instance.

They might, of course, in their research, encounter a few ancestors from high or low social ranks and actually most of the time they might encounter both.

But if genealogy research is more and more popular nowadays it is also because it is connected to other trendy exploring fields.

People who make their tree or hire someone to do it for them are looking for more … and any path could lead them to and from genealogy research.

There is of course the most popular and known one: the family historian trend but also other exploring fields like DNA testing and DNA matching for the search of close or distant relatives, the need to belong, psychogenealogy ‘s ways to make you understand many unconscious things going on in a family history and the way to answer children’s questions about their family‘s roots and history.

Whatever path you choose that will lead you to genealogy research is a worthy and exciting one.

A professional genealogist will never be your psychogenealogist but he / she will collect hints,clues, extraordinary or just ordinary repetitive events in your family history and hand it out to you .

What you will later do with that, whether this is just an understanding or healing work is up to you and the person who helps you in that regard to overcome any identified trauma(s) and get the best out of it.

And this all starts with curiosity and family stories told or heard about, hidden or never told about , secrets and taboos …

Family story-telling or how to become a family historian

All families have stories that need to be told and others that will be ignored up to the point they find out secrets, taboos, hidden or disturbing things about their ancestors.

All families prefer keeping and sharing the good parts of this history and consciously or unconsciously hide other disturbing facts and traumas.

All families have those people who are totally into the family story-telling thing and others who do not care and want to cut themselves from those ties and live the life they have chosen. In a more and more individual-focused type of life era there are more and more people who move far from their relatives’ homeplace and forget within two generations almost everything about their roots and family history. This is modern life and we each one of us have to deal with that, family units get smaller, often split apart very early, more kids are raised by just one or more than two parents at a time and estranged from their grandparents.

People have never felt so busy but have never felt more lonely and depressed though.

And one day or another some of them come to genealogy research just out of curiosity at first and later on with the need to understand more things about themselves and their family’s past.

We don’t have anything to gain to cling to the past, we have to focus on present moments to enjoy life but we can learn from studying it … learn good and bad things, strengthen ourselves knowing more about our roots and ancestors’ challenges and understand and overcome unconscious underlying traumas.

I was just 16 when I got to talk with three of my grandparents about the family’s past.

I was curious and wanted to know everything about their life and those of their parents and grandparents. I hadn’t really known them for years, I used to live in mainland France where I was born and spent all my childhood and teen years there.So, I wasn’t really connected with

them other than I made a few and rare trip visits.

On a trip back to their native island I talked with them a lot and asked them a lot of questions. Some of those questions were answered willingly, others just got a long silent pause and nothing but resentful remarks like “ Why do you want to know this ? You are too curious “ that made me look like an inquisitor.

I had spotted the disturbing and painful secrets about a child’s supposedly unknown father or a hidden daughter born out of wedlock and many more … I never gave up asking and taking notes of all that was told in notebooks. I hadn’t started my tree yet , just had collected a few life facts about my grandparents and great grandparents. A few years later , those notebooks turned out to be a precious help to complete the family puzzle investigation when I put them side by side next to official archive sources. Because this is when I found other few facts hidden from me as well….

And this is the moment when another story that can be told, the one that you were told by your relatives plus the one you find out in archive sources combined which is your more realistic family history, not just one that was a “legend-like” one, with just beautiful stories told and others left out in the dark.

If you take this role of family historian get ready to get positive feedback and also some backlash from other family members. What you are doing while stirring the pot is digging up ghosts and disturbing facts, whether they were hidden or unknown to you; those unveiled stories won’t appeal to anyone in your family. The closer the generations get to you the more difficult and painful it sometimes becomes to deal with... but even some disturbing and awful stories from a distant past can leave you emotionally overwhelmed .

As a family historian you should be able to take some distance with your ancestor’s flaws or crimes : those people belonged to another time with another cultural background which does not look like yours today, their mentality and state of mind can only be guessed through their actions if they left some clues as to why they acted so ... but most of the time they can’t be judged with our own way of seeing things.

Imagine you discovered a painful part of their history, like they were enslaved ?

You would feel disgusted, mad or sad for them … those things are hard to bear because we can’t imagine how lucky we are to be free …

But what if you discovered that others were first enslaved, then freed and later became colored slave owners themselves ? How would you react to this ?

This sometimes did happen on my native island (Reunion island).

True, freed colored people could become slave owners in turn and had slaves to work for them.Because these are nasty stories of a nasty slavery period that are shocking to us today but they belong to a past time period which had slavery established as a profitable economical system and made it the rule for everybody.

You don’t have to be a historian yourself to understand how your ancestors lived at a certain time and a certain place but no doubt you will get interested by historical parts of the investigated country(ies), learn more and understand more…. because yes, people’s histories are linked to places and country or regional events … and a serious genealogy research cannot be embraced as a whole if one does not know what happened when and where. And though your ancestors’ life paths might seem insignificant to you because they were not the famous or powerful people in their country, their country history moulded and influenced their lives.

Family historians are very popular in the US, Canada and South America.

They make it a point to choose one or several of their ancestors and after years of research and investigation want to make it known publicly. Some give talks,organize family reunions or publish books. Whether their ancestors became kind of heroes or just victims there is always plenty to discover, tell and transmit to future generations.

In Europe, this family history fashion was first limited to high social ranks families.

Nowadays, it is becoming more and more popular in all social backgrounds, especially when it comes to family reunions which are very trendy : one family historian makes a huge family tree with all identified ancestors and descendants and the result of this is then displayed on huge paper rolls covering several walls. As an invited descendant attending this family reunion you are then looking for your box with your name and dates on the huge descendant pedigree chart and pose for a big family photo.

So, are you or will you become the future family historian of your family, village or town ?

Or would you rather short-circuit all this research work and paper trail and opt for a faster way to find relatives such as DNA testing ?

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