English Genealogy

English Genealogy

English Genealogy

English Genealogy

Excerpt

It is my belief that an interest in family origins is widespread and tending to increase among the peoples of English descent throughout the world, especially perhaps outside the mother country. Some will think this claim a paradox, others a truism, according to their experience. It cannot, probably, be either proved or disproved. But I think that my opinion will in the main be shared by those who are in one way or another targets of enquiry in these matters; the professional genealogists and record searchers; the staff of genealogical institutions and societies; the custodians of records connected with the subject; and the editors of genealogical publications. Most of these, I fancy, would agree that the volume of enquiry and the variety and geographical dispersion of those from whom it comes grow year by year.

To the genealogist this is not surprising. Curiosity about one's ancestors, a wish to know who and what and where they were, seems to him an obvious and elementary form of curiosity, which no one with a reasonably active all round interest in himself and the world about him is likely to lack, unless his circumstances or upbringing have smothered it. He would support this view by reference to history. In less sophisticated times and places it has often been thought a normal part of every child's education to teach him to recite his ancestors for several generations, while the genealogies of rulers, passed down by word of mouth, with or without biographical detail, are the backbone of the oldest historical traditions.

In a tribal organization society is held together by duties, rights and prohibitions attaching to blood relationship within the family, the kindred and the tribe or nation. In the periods of such organization, therefore, the general consciousness of kinship and descent is strong. The details of descent and relationship are in the forefront of consciousness and are passed down for generations. This way of life belongs to men whose wealth is in flocks and herds or to the wanderers by land or sea who live by preying on more settled peoples. When the tribes turn to agriculture and the life of cities, legal and economic ties tend slowly to replace the bond of kinship as the main cement of society.

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