Genealogy is the most popular hobby in the world, or so I read last week. Why? If true, maybe it's because we all want to know where we came from, what chain of life we belong to, how we connect to the past, how to divine our future from the actions of our ancestors. Who knows? What I do know is that learning about ancestors is satisfying and fun.
Finding Your Roots, now showing on PBS once a week here in the United States, must easily be the best ever produced about genealogy. Incredibly impressive efforts and extravagant expenses have gone into the creation of each segment.
Tracing ancestors can be a fascinating hobby that can extend to the far reaches of the world. Getting names, dates, and locations where they lived can be extremely fascinating and unexpectedly time-consuming and expensive.
The television show used the latest genetic technology to extend what could be found hounding paper evidence and graveyards for clues. Taking the time to make lengthy searches used to be the only method for finding our ancestors, but now we can each discover much more lengthy family histories, whatever our personal circumstances. In other words, even if we know nothing even about our parents, or beyond our grandparents, whatever we know, we can find out more than we could dream about our ethnic histories by sending spit (incredibly for only $99) to genealogy websites, my favorite of which is 23andMe as I written about here, here and here. Fascinating and geeky sites, such as my personal favorites, Promethease which I wrote about here, and Livewello, are coming online where (for as little as $5) dozens of pages of genealogy and health advice can appear in your email, protected for privacy.
Improving current health and anticipating future health challenges can be a motivation for finding out more about ancestors. Some of these sites cross the line between health and genealogy to help us connect the dots between the recessive and dominant genes our ancestors had that we share with them. Being conscious and aware of health issues can help when visiting the doctor if the doctor has a better idea of the individual health risks we might have and it's on a personal printout that we can make and keep to ourselves. Our bodies are our own responsibilities and we should know everything we can about our own health before we have medical emergencies.
Being worried negatively (to the point of being paralyzed into inaction) about an identity being stolen is counterproductive and unrealistic. Being anonymously cloned for commercial purposes is impossible scientifically for humans. Such negativity is unhelpful because scientists aren't interested in putting together clones of any particular one of us any more than one particular peanut is interesting to a scientist when the overwhelming popular demand is for more peanut butter. And at this point we're all peanuts and probably will be forever. None of us knows if our particular skeleton will become the most important find of the century for a future archeologist.
Scientists of many disciplines need to have aggregate collected information that will help all of us. Researchers have made new discoveries, based on saliva samples, donated by thousands of people around the world for the purpose of understanding historical migration and advancing medical research and the area is exploding from the possibilities created by combining information from the precious samples of thousands of people.
Learning about your own personal history can be an entryway increasing understanding of the histories of people around the world, and that is the value of Finding Your Roots that is extremely helpful. Genealogy is helping motivate a better understanding of history because as always, if the commercial is served, the recreational will be improved as well.