There is no more fascinating subject in which a person may become occupied than an examination into the history of his ancestry. The study of human beings is an interesting one, especially when they are the particular human beings from whom the student has derived his existence, his character, his likes and dislikes, and those elements which differentiate him from every other human being and constitute him an entity with individuality.
A large number of people are becoming increasingly interested in the study of their ancestry. Persons everywhere are inquiring as to who were their progenitors, when they came to America, where in this country they settled, in what direction they followed the tide of migration as it moved into new settlements in early days, what they accomplished in business, in education, in public service, what place they occupied in the development of the state and the nation, who their children were and what became of them, and so on with many questions, the answers to which are an engrossing study.
The business of answering these questions has become a profession and many persons are following it with more or less success. To them, however, it is purely a business. There is nothing about it which vitally concerns them except the wages derived there from.
There are also many persons taking up this work who have no intention of becoming professional genealogists or making the study a vocation.
They seek to answer their own questions and desire the sport connected with the search, and have come to realize that finding one's ancestors and learning to know them intimately through records and history cannot produce its greatest enjoyment if it is to be accomplished through a third and disinterested party. Like many of the pleasures of life, ancestor hunting must be experienced first hand if it is to possess real charm.
To many people the search for ancestors and family connections cannot be prosecuted through the hired worker because of the amount of money involved in the transaction. Family research is a great gamble. Sometimes a few hours work will produce marvelous results and at other times, days, weeks, and sometimes months will be consumed with very little accomplishment to show for the work done. When the search is being paid for by the hour it is often very discouraging and unless a person is financially able to spend considerable money it may prove a disappointing business.
Many people with a keen interest in their progenitors and a longing to know more about them make no move to satisfy their wishes or answer the questions which arise concerning such matters. This is because they are fairly well convinced that they cannot afford to hire the work done and that they do not possess the ability to do it themselves.
The study of the history of a family may properly be divided into two distinct branches:
1st. Those who are studying from an ancestral point of view which is the history of a portion of many families converging in one person in the present, usually the student himself, and,
2nd. Those who are studying from a genealogical point of view which is the history of many families diverging from one ancestor at some distant point of time.
The former is a very easy and simple proposition and one that any person with ordinary intelligence may undertake without special training or preparation with a fair expectation of reaching successful results. The latter demands more training and skill if success is to be obtained. With proper introduction to the work and guidance, however, the layman need not hesitate taking up the construction of a genealogy confident of producing a creditable piece of work which will find its place among family histories of the first class.
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