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Ancestry: Why Knowing Yours Matters More than Ever

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Ancestry Matters: It’s an Anchor in Uncertain Waters

This is a disposable, instant-gratification-then-throw-it-away-and-start-new kind of age. Is it any wonder that nearly 18% of American adults experience anxiety disorders in any given year? Few things remain steady. Few things are lasting. Few things give us a real sense of “rootedness.” Knowing our ancestry fills that angst-filled vacuum nicely—the further back we can trace our heritage, the more connected we feel to a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves: it’s a kinship and oneness with those who came before us. We don’t share the same world that our ancestors lived in, but we do share the same DNA. And that anchored connection matters deeply.

Ancestry Matters: Know your Clan

Silent Generation. Baby Boomer. Gen-Xer. Millennial. Most of the “labels” affixed to people in different age groups bear some kind of negative connotation or association. But then, following a DNA test for ancestry , Americans hear themselves called something else instead—a label they never knew applied to them: German. Italian. Ethiopian. Orcadian. Suddenly they have an immediate sense of deep self, and an instant connection with others with similar ancestry across all groups. As human beings who crave being part of a “clan,” that matters.

Ancestry Matters: Know Yourself through your Forebears

By definition, hobbies are meant to be fun, but not all pastimes result in a physical, tangible, product at the end. Researching ancestry does! And this makes it even more rewarding: An online family tree going back generations; albums filled with beautiful old pictures—all named and dated—of relatives past; stories told at family reunions about the heroic deeds or relatable struggles of our ancestors. These are the benefits and the fun that come from doing ancestry research. The stories and people are fascinating because they are real, and we are the current end-products of all those generations that came before us. No wonder avid genealogists claim their pastime is an addiction, rather than a mere hobby. One link at a time, those who do ancestry research are forging their own chain across the generations. And that matters.

Ancestry Matters: Make History Personal

When we discover that a great-great-great-grandfather died in a Civil War battle, suddenly our view of that piece of history changes. It’s no longer an insignificant battle that we briefly and disinterestedly skimmed over in a school textbook—it’s a historical event that has become intensely personal. It’s more important to us because our DNA was there. It was a witness to what happened. Suddenly we want to know all about that battle—what happened, why it happened, and who else was there. Researching our ancestry brings history alive and shows our biological connection to it. In a world where it’s easy to feel insignificant and even a little lost, that matters.

A Few Final Thoughts about Why Ancestry Matters

Have you ever watched a child look at an old photograph of one of their ancestors? There’s a sense of wonderment mixed with curiosity in the child’s eyes. Wanting to know where we came from, why we’re here, and where we’re going is a visceral part of the human experience. After all, the need to know and have answers to these questions is the basis for most religions. But non-religious people also need to feel a connection to their past: to see the faces of their ancestors and know the stories and places that have led to today. With the continual advances in DNA tests for ancestry, we’re living through a golden age for family-history research. Are you taking advantage of the power of DNA?

Can you think of other reasons why knowing your ancestry matters? Feel free to share your comments.

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