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Family history holds universal appeal

I am yet to find a person who, once they begin to uncover their family history, is not at least mildly interested in learning more. Interest in where one’s ancestry comes from doesn’t seem to belong to one religion, one political party, one ethnicity, or one region of the world. In fact, few topics seem to hold as universal appeal as family history. A curiosity about our past, our origins, and forebears has always been and always will be a foundation stone of human life.

Think about the cultures of the ancient world. Much of the Bible is a telling of the history of one family- that is, the family of Israel. It takes chapters and books to pass on the information of where the children of Israel came from, what their ancestors did, and what they are expected to do as their descendants. Similarly, the Egyptians felt an overwhelming urge to record, memorialize, and pass on the story of their origin. The great pyramids, the Sphinx, and the ornate tombs they left behind are testament to this.

One would be hard pressed to find a culture- or a family- that did not share this same urge. Indeed, it seems to play in central role in how we define and maintain our identity as human beings. For some families, it may be a ritual, a reunion, or a place that allows them to memorialize and transmit this information to later generations. For others, it may just be your dad telling stories about how Uncle Joey used to get his head stuck in the dishwasher. Regardless, these stories become ingrained in us and help us define who we are.

It is no surprise then that family history is one of the most searched items on the internet. It is no surprise that, with such a massive amount of information now available at our fingertips, genealogy should be the one to occupy the bulk of our curiosity. In a time when families and communities seem to be growing apart, online family history is pulling families back together.

What do you think? How does family history help you define who you are?

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