We live in an era that places great demands on us humans. To be constantly available is considered a virtue and the information society closes in from all sides. It is said that the human brain has not gone through any major changes since the Stone Age, but our surroundings certainly have.
We search for the meaning of life while trying to catch a breath. Some of us seek shelter in Eastern religions, practice yoga or study the latest affirmation techniques, all in an attempt to find inner peace. Our rootlessness adds to a feeling of emptiness as our lives rush by, and the fact that many of us have moved far away from where our ancestors lived and worked, certainly doesn’t help us to cope with this feeling.
Genealogy has become a tool for the stressed citizen of today´s society. Offering a way to remain focused on life´s realities. It is no longer just a hobby for aging men or women who have left their working life behind them. In the space between past and present we can find our roots and understand our history. We all carry genes from our ancestors, genes that create our appearance and shape us as persons. The traces of our ancestors run deep in us, shaping us inside and out regardless of our feelings on the matter. Knowledge of our history can grant us a greater understanding of who we are, and what we want with our lives. Genealogy gives us the insight that we are links in an ongoing chain that stretches through history.
As the research into personal history has become more interesting for the younger generations it has changed to accommodate new science. Today’s genealogy researchers have set new goals and expectations. They seek to know their ancestors in every way possible, and will not settle for names and dates. They seek a broader knowledge. Who was Anders Larsson? Did he take over his father’s farm? What happened to his children when he passed away at an early age? The questions quickly build up and they need answers.
More and more people plan the annual vacation around their ancestors. They visit villages and churches, walk the roads that are now no more than paths and carefully examine a recovered family bible. Cemetery tourism is becoming more popular, both virtually trips and as visits in person. To actually set your own history in relation to the history of society adds yet another dimension to your research.
My own journey through history began in the Swedish countryside. It was a whole new world for me. In the 1700s 90 percent of Sweden´s citizens lived in the countryside, away from the cities. The rustic society evolved slowly and medieval remains were still much in evidence. It was in a rural wooded area were I found my roots, and could sit by the fireplace in the house where my ancestors had lived as long time ago.
Archeologist Tina Thurston and her team from the University of Buffalo, New York spent much their time allotted for archeological digs in 2010 on Visingsö. This 8.7 miles long and 1.9 miles wide island in Lake Vättern is considered the birthplace of the kingdom of Sweden. The archeological team did research on common people living there from 500 B.C. through the 17th Century. Their mission is to find out how the rise of the modern social powers affected those living in the area. They will return in April of 2011. Folklore in Sweden will follow their work closely and we hope to find information about people who immigrated to America from Visingsö.
A genealogist has the benefit of peeking through doors that would have otherwise stayed shut forever, and there they meet persons and their life´s stories which have been forgotten for hundreds of years. In short, here reality is more amazing than most tales.
To find your roots is to heal yourself. Genealogy is a slow hobby that should be prescribed as medicine, but a warning label should be added:
It is highly addictive. However, it has no proven negative effects.
The author is Editor-in-Chief of the Swedish publication Anatyda (tr. Suggest). She is a professional teacher and worked for many years in the Swedish public school system. During the last decade she was a freelance writer. Ewa has written many articles about genealogy and founded the the genealogy school at Folklore in Sweden. She has a strong interest in genealogy and Swedish history. She has conducted genealogical research since the early 1990s.