Who do you think you are?


‘Who do you think you are? is a popular BBC TV genealogy program that has spread to other countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States.

In Australia, its screening is sponsored by Ancestry where you can explore your own family history.

It seems we’re all interested in finding out about the family histories of so called famous people, going by the popularity of the program.

The success of family history sites like Ancestry suggests we’re interested in our own family histories as well. The question is – why?

Is who you are determined by your position in your family tree? 

If you know the stories of the families you belong to – does that actually tell you who you are?

Or does it merely give you the context into which you were born?

After all, you are not your grandfather – no matter what amazing things he did in his lifetime.

Maybe you’ve benefited from the material success of the people who make up your bloodline – maybe you haven’t.

What difference does it make to know that your great-great-grandmother was a slave? Look back far enough, if the records exist, and we all have a slave or two in our genealogies – that was the lot of most people in most parts of the world at one time or another. Rome might have been ruled by Caesar but it was built and operated by slaves.

Delving into your family history is entertaining, and it can reveal glimpses of the lives people lived in previous eras. We can all learn something about the story of life on earth from such research. If you have the time, the inclination and the cash, go ahead and have fun.

While you’re enjoying yourself, keep in mind that you are no more defined by your genealogy than you are by your nationality – they are both just stories.

You can choose to believe that you are defined by the stories of other people – your choice – by why limit yourself?

Thanks for dropping by, Peter.

3 thoughts on “Who do you think you are?

  1. If you do enough genealogy, you discover secrets and scandals in any family tree. I love doing genealogy because it helps me feel connected and part of something bigger. When I learn of ancestors over coming personal obstacles, I rejoice. When they don’t, it serves as a cautionary tale.

    1. Hi Jen
      Some of my cousins have started a FB group on the maternal branch of our family tree. I found myself reading some of the material they had posted after writing this article and discovered they had unearthed a photograph of our great-great grandfather with his five sons, one of which is my great grandfather as a young boy. I felt a connection – perhaps I’ll write my next article on that experience and include a link to your very interesting blog. Thanks for dropping by.

      1. Thanks Peter! That would be wonderful. Cooincidentally, I’m posting a multi-part short series starting Sunday called “Find Photographs of your Ancestors Online”. Sunday’s post includes my similar experience with Facebook as one place to start searching online.

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