Genealogy and Family Trees, why they are important

Genealogy and Family Trees, why they are important

Genealogy It is one of the auxiliary sciences of history which allows to trace the origins of a person, family or community from determining who their ancestors were and where they came from. But it also has great utility for health sciences.

According to the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, the word comes from the Greek genos: race, birth or origin, and logos: science, study or knowledge. Genealogy would then be the discipline that studies the parents and ancestors of a person, as well as the origin and evolution of something.

The Britannica Encyclopaedia, on the other hand, defines it as “the study of the origins and history of the family. Genealogists compile lists of ancestors, which they organize in pedigree trees. The forms vary from the rudimentary to the comparatively complex; genealogy can be found in all nations and periods”.


  • 1 What is genealogical research?
  • 2 History of genealogy
  • 3 The study of genealogy and family trees
  • 4 How can it help us to know our family tree?

What is genealogical research?

The genealogy research works consist of collect as much background through oral and documentary sources. The first source used is the memories of the person and close family members. The second is the documents compiled in Civil Registries, Historical Archives, Churches and Hospitals. Eventually, archaeological sources and the study of artistic representations are used. Lately they have also begun to be used digital files and genetic tests.

Genealogy History

Genealogy was already used in ancient times. In his poem Theogony, the Greek poet Hesiod (7th century BC) performs a genealogy of the legendary gods and heroes. Virgil's famous work (70 - 19 BC), the Aeneid, written by order of the first Roman emperor Augusto Cesar (63 BC-14 AD), explains the mythical origin of Rome from the Trojan hero Aeneas, making a genealogy that reaches the emperor himself (who is credited with being a descendant of Aeneas and of Romulus). In the Bible we find numerous genealogies that begin with Adam and Eve, and go back to Jesus Christ. In the seventeenth century, Archbishop James Usher (1581-1656) of Ireland used this genealogy to calculate that, according to the Scriptures, the Earth should have been created on Saturday, October 22, 4004 BC at 6:00 p.m.

In ancient China, respect for ancestors and elders also led to record the origins of each person. In Islamic countries it was used to identify the descendants of the prophet Mohammad (Mohammed) who claimed the Caliphate, so genealogy was of great political and religious importance. In countries like India, where polygamy, concubinage and adoption were common helped to avoid problems with inheritance and property. In Ethiopia, genealogies were built to justify the belief that the emperor was a descendant of the Hebrew king Solomon and the African queen Saba.

In the Medieval Europe people belonging to the nobility and royalty were interested in investigating their family origin and they made family trees, not just to prove their “blue blood”, But also to determine the succession in public office. An example of this was the death in 1286 of the King of Scotland Alexander III and the subsequent death of his only surviving descendant Margaret of Norway in 1290, which led to the genealogy to find the nearest relative able to inherit the crown. More than a dozen European kings claimed the Scottish throne, which led to the English invasion of the territory.

On the Mediterranean coast, families used to transmit their genealogy orally through stories and poems where fiction mixed with reality.

From Trento council (1545-1563) the Catholic Church decided to record all the rituals that occurred in the parishes. This generated a large amount of documentation that forced its ordering, classification and care. Therefore, in European and American parishes, books with baptismal certificates, confirmations, first communions, marriages and deaths dating from the 16th century can be found. The structure of a baptismal certificate was as follows: name of the parish and that of the town or city, the day, month and year, name of the minister of the sacrament with his title, the name and personal data of the baptized person, the time, day and place of birth with the name of the parents, neighborhood and nature; also the name, surname, address and nature of both paternal and maternal grandparents and ending with the name and surname of the godparents. The other documents have a similar structure. With modifications, this system is maintained to this day.

From Modernity, with the rise of the bourgeoisie and the emergence of forms of capitalist production, the making of genealogical trees ceased to be something of the aristocracy to begin to interest the entire society.

In 1928 the First International Congress of Heraldry and Genealogy was held in Barcelona, which was of great importance to establish universal forms of family tree construction, the promotion of genealogy and the training of professionals in the area. This Congress influenced the creation of genealogical societies throughout the world. An example of this was the creation in 1940 of the Argentine Institute of Genealogical Sciences, which the following year began to edit his magazine. This institution carried out the genealogy of several illustrious families in the country, tracing its origins until the time of the Spanish conquest.

The study of genealogy and family trees

One of the most ambitious genealogy making projects is the one undertaken by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Popularly known as Mormons, the members of this Church founded in 1894 the Genealogical Society of Utah in Salt Lake City, with the aim of creating “a macro database that gathers the family history of all Humanity" In 1938 they undertook a project aimed at microfilming documents from parish and municipal archives. Conservation is strict, so much so that microfilmed information is kept in its gigantic database located 200 meters underground, in the armored crypt of Utah's Granite Mountain, 40 kilometers from Salt Lake City. It is estimated that there are currently 2.4 million rolls and 1.5 million photographs from 100 countries and in more than 170 languages. In addition, these documents are digitized and made available to users through a web page.

Nevertheless, The largest family tree to date is the one made by a team of American and Israeli scientists under the direction of researcher Joanna Kaplans from the New York Genome Center. In total, personal data of 86 million people and 13 million records were examined, in order to develop a tree of 110 million people that allows the ancestors of each one to be traced up to 11 generations and 500 years in the past. This allows to show human mobility, genetic dispersion and changes in the health of populations.

How can you help us to know our family tree?

Nowadays family trees are also used to carry out the diagnosis of diseases. In this case it consists of the graphic representation of the family medical history. Such representation facilitates the identification of genetic syndromes and the establishment of presymptomatic diagnoses. At the same time it allows to better calculate the risk (recurrence or occurrence) and inheritance patterns of a disease. Thus, the possibility of contracting a disease or being attentive to the symptoms of its possible appearance can be quickly and economically discarded.

Genealogy thus becomes a very useful tool, both for history and for medicine, biology, public health and epidemiology.


RAE; (2014) Dictionary of the Spanish language, 23rd edition, volume I, Buenos Aires, Planeta, p. 1096

"Genealogy", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, 1995, volume V, p. 173. //

"Genealogy", Encyclopaedia Britannica, volume V, 15th edition, 1995, p. 173.

Uribe Acevedo, Gloria Eugenia; (2015) “The family tree: construction from archival documents. Bibliographic review ”, Pergamum, volume 1, No. 1, January-June.

"Genealogy", Encyclopaedia Britannica, volume V, 15th edition, 1995, p. 173.

Abbot of Santillán, Diego; Great Encyclopedia of Argentina, Buenos Aires, EDIAR, 1957, volume III, p. 510. //


"Pedrigree chain", Encyclopaedia Britannica, volume IX, 15th edition, 1995, p. 235; and “Family trees,” Wikipedia, //

Related tests
  • Depression test
  • Goldberg depression test
  • Self-knowledge test
  • how do others see you?
  • Sensitivity test (PAS)
  • Character test