What Is A Family Tree? – A Detailed Breakdown of What Genealogy Really Is

I’ve been researching my family history for fifteen plus years now and the other day I was thinking about a family tree. What is a family tree? Why did a family tree start getting called a family tree? Why is it important to know your family tree?

What Is Genealogy?

Genealogy is the combination of utilizing interviews, records, genetic analysis, and other data in order to gather information about a family unit and show the lineage of its members. Now that sounds very technical, but in reality it isn’t really all that complicated. Genealogy is, quite simply, the study of one’s family lineage by utilizing historical documents and other means.

To me, genealogy is the study of a family. How the family started. How the family evolved and also where the family is headed. Genealogy is about knowing your roots.

Why Do People Get Into Genealogy?

Everyone has a reason for what they do. There are varying reasons for why someone gets into genealogy and researches their family history, but the main reason I feel most people get into it, is to preserve their family heritage to pass down to future generations. We all want to carve our piece of history out and preserve it for those that come after us. That’s why people make time capsules, right?

I started out in my genealogy search about fifteen years ago when my dad started questioning some things about his family. I started researching as a means to get him some answers for things he wanted to know. It didn’t really occur to me that I would get so into it.

The death of my father left me feeling misplaced in the world and, with genealogy, I have found that place again. By researching my family history, I feel connected to the members of my family tree and, more specifically, my dad. I think that many family history researchers probably feel the same way. But to add to it, putting together their family tree helps them to preserve that history for many generations to come.

What Is A Family Tree?

Now you have an idea of what genealogy is and why people get into it, so what is a family tree? Why do we call a family tree, a family tree?

Just the other day I was getting ready for work and I started contemplating that very question. Why is it called a family tree? My thought is that a family tree was called a family tree because each family unit within a family looks like the branch of a tree so I looked up the definition of family tree and found, according to Mirriam-Webster, a family tree is a genealogical diagram. But I would venture to say it is more in depth than that.

A tree is a living, breathing organism that grows in the sunlight with nourishment. A family does the same thing. Give a family nourishment and light, and family will prosper. Take away those things and the family unit dies out, just like a tree dies out without proper sunlight and nourishment.

Over time branches of a tree die out and fall off and all the while new growth is happening to the tree. The tree is getting more roots and more buds which become new branches and leaves. A family does the same thing. Family members die and family members are born. The new buds on a tree represent the new members each family brings.

A family tree is an easier way to view a family as a diagram, but it is so much more. It is the past, present and future. It is the story of a family and genealogists are putting the pieces of their family puzzles together, one piece at a time so that their family story can be told accurately. Professional genealogists also help others to track their lineage and to put their family stories together.

The Importance Of Knowing Your Family Tree

When someone goes to a doctor, the doctor or staff member at the clinic will ask about family history in regard to medical conditions. Why do they do that? Well, they do it because many conditions are hereditary and knowing family history helps medical personnel to choose a course of action.

Let’s say someone has a family history of cancer in the immediate family. This makes the patient at a much higher risk of developing cancer so at the slightest sign of something like a lump, the medical staff will order tests for cancer.

Well, the same holds true for family history research. Knowing your family history can help with medical problems. It can help heal families. Many families have lost members through the years due to divorce, adoption, or just loosing track of each other. Researching your family can lead you to finding those that have been lost and reconnecting. Family history research can provide you with a sense of belonging and a sense of peace. It can give you that piece of the world that you can leave as a legacy for future generations.

Paying Homage To Your Ancestors

Regardless of the reasons you research your family history, the truth is a family is a living, breathing entity. Families deserve respect and researching your family history is a great way to pay homage to your ancestors. It is a way to show respect to those who have traveled before you and leave that legacy for future generations to build upon.

The family tree is a picture description of the family. It is a visual representation of the love shared within a family and it is breathtaking to see the family tree filled out. It still amazes me what two people can accomplish. Just two people can start a huge family tree and a long-lasting legacy.

I hope you have enjoyed my post and would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. What is a family tree to you? Please leave your comments and/or questions below.

Chas Guevara






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8 thoughts on “What Is A Family Tree? – A Detailed Breakdown of What Genealogy Really Is

  1. Interest article. I have a question. You say in the beginning of the article that you’ve been doing this for 15 years. Does it really take that long? The reason I’m asking is because I’d like to begin as well. I’m so scared, but I don’t know why? Maybe I’m afraid of the unknown.

    However, does it take that long?

    1. Hi Lane,

      Well the answer to your question is it depends. I know that probably isn’t the answer you are looking for, but it really does depend on your situation and what you consider done. In the beginning I was mainly researching like the immediate family and back to my great-grandparents. Now I’m going back further and further as I find new things. It is also taking me so much longer than it would if I consistently worked on my family tree file.

      I am a busy person and have been told I “wear a lot of hats.” That means I like to stay busy and try to do too many things at one time. Sometimes things have to be set on the back burner if I have too much going on at a time. There have been spells where I didn’t research for a couple of years at a time…like after my dad passed away. I lost all interest in anything and just worked as many hours as work would allow me to. I had a spell where for a number of years I didn’t touch the research for monetary reasons (I didn’t have the money to pay for my account). I didn’t realize at that time I could have used my account. I figured that part out later.

      The actual research does take time, but it all depends on how much time you spend doing it and what you consider done. I’m an all or nothing girl! I want to completely document my family history. Most of my family is from poor places that didn’t keep great records. The courthouse burned down where my dad is from and as a result there isn’t a record of birth for him and his siblings.

      Well I hope this answers your question. You will get out of it what you put into it. I have reached over 1,000 people in my family file and each and every time I spend time researching I had at least a few more. I also have a huge family so tracking them all down does take time. I typically spend at the very least a few hours a week on my file and when time permits a couple of hours a day.

      Thanks for stopping by Lane!

  2. The article was very insightful, thank you very much for the information. It was interesting understanding why some people would take the time to research their genealogy. Knowing where you came from and knowing about your ancestors helps us understand more about ourselves. We often take family for granted, but family is everything. Thank you for sharing


    1. Thank you. Yes family is everything. I come from a large family and we are always visiting and doing things together. It is important to know where we come from and helps us make real world connections to ourselves. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Great introductory article on Genealogy! I’m definitely interested in Genealogy and genetics – where certain traits come from, whether they are an individual’s characteristic, or in fact, inherited. My grandma is huge into Genealogy, she has done up a family tree herself and is always researching! Very interesting topic.

    1. Genetics also interest me – where certain traits come from. It is interesting to see what genes a person inherits from each parent. It’s fun to watch young children and figure out what came from where. It is great your grandmother does genealogy. She is carving out her piece of history and preserving it for generations to come. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Hi! Funny enough I have never done any genealogy myself but my mother is really into it and so was her mother. We have this huge book that traces our family back to the Viking Age which is super crazy. I grew up with a lot of these stories and they are fascinating.
    So I understand the desire to do this research. I’ve just never had to do it otherwise I probably would have picked it up. I always envisioned a more symbolic meaning to the term “family tree” as well.
    Out of curiosity do you use any of those online sources like ancestry.com?

    Thanks for the post.

    1. Hi Tina,

      That is really interesting. I’m sure those family stories are very exciting! I actually do use several online sites, including Ancestry for my research. I absolutely love the ability to research from home! Thanks for stopping by!

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