When we talk to people outside the genealogy world, we often get the same questions. “Why are you so much interested in family history? Should you not leave the past alone? Is it not more important to care for living family members instead of spending so much time on those that have been dead for ages?”
Today we feel the need to tell you why WE are like family history research. Nice bonus: we get to explain the name of our company.
Let us first sum up a few reasons why people are into genealogy. And no, this list is not exhaustive.
- Fun. This is probably the most important reason for people to dive into their family’s past. In 1967, Donald Lines Jacobus wrote in Genealogy as Pastime and Profession (p. 9): “At the very least, tracing one’s ancestry is a fascinating pastime.” That is probably the number one reason to start a search for ancestors. He also mentioned that some like “the connection of their ancestors with historic events” and he refered to those who work on their applications for lineage societies.
- Religion. A good example is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS members believe that “families can be together after this life.” Thus, they want to – even need to – know who their ancestors were.
- Identity building. Many say our society has changed over the decades. It has become more individualistic. Therefore, people feel the need to be belong to a group, perhaps even a ‘family’. Finding distant relatives is a way of expanding this group. A 6th cousin is still considered family, because of common ancestors. Knowing that the family originally came from the Netherlands, Spain, Poland or the United Kingdom, creates a bond with these countries.
- Healing. Over the years we have seen how finding details about (distant) family members can help deal with emotional wounds and psychological struggles. Our clients wanted to know whether their family members were war heroes or actually involved in war crimes. Adopted persons were looking for biological parents. DNA research in conjunction with ‘traditional’ genealogy methods is a powerful tool.
- Work. Jacobus already pointed out why there was (then) a need for professional genealogists: some people lack the time, the skills or the research opportunities. Nothing has changed. Those who are unable to do the research themselves – for whatever reason – ask professionals to do the work for them, and they are happy to pay for it. Part of the professional world are the forensic genealogists, who use their genealogy skills to assist in legal procedures and court cases. There are doctors who use genealogy to study hereditary diseases. Other professionals focus on finding heirs to an estate. Often, these professionals are not so much looking for deceased ancestors but for living descendants or relatives.
Dr. Penny Walters wrote two books about the psychological aspects of family history research: Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (2019) and The Psychology of Searching (2020). We definitely recommend these books if you are interested in these topics.
Yes, genealogy is fun. Yes, we help our clients build their identity or heal their emotional wounds. And yes, it is our profession and we try to earn (some) money. However, our prime reason for being involved in genealogy is that we want to connect people to their (own) past.
We truly believe that a solid knowledge of history helps us understand contemporary society. Years ago, at an international conference on heritage interpretation in Belgium we already pointed out that studying family histories makes us understand why our own ancestors moved from one country to another. Some of these individuals and families left their fatherland because of war, others for economic, political or religious reasons. Our research results will reveal patterns in history. Thus, we come to understand that we all descend from refugees that once left their country under comparable circumstances as the current refugees in all corners of the world.
We want to connect others to their own – private – history. The past comes to life when we can identify with historical persons, facts and locations. Books about world history are fascinating, but a single archival document mentioning our ancestors can teach us much more about what happened centuries ago. It will certainly fascinate us a lot more.
The same applies to the appreciation for cultural heritage. It is of course fantastic to visit the Wonders of the World, but that one small church in that one small village can often move us more when we know that it was built by one of our ancestors. Since our talk at the heritage conference in 2016, our beliefs are that genealogy is heritage interpretation on a micro level. [source]
With this in mind, we can now explain the name of our company. English dictionaries do not mention the word ‘antecedentia’. Neither do Dutch dictionaries. The English word ‘antecedents’ (or antecedenten in Dutch) comes closest to a useful meaning. So why did we choose a non-existing word as the name of our company? Well, we merged two words into one.
The first part of the name Antecedentia refers to the English word antecedents. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this word is a synonym of ancestors. The second part is derived from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge. In our view, antecedentia is the same as knowledge of our ancestors. Hence, our company’s slogan is: “understanding your past”.
Now you know what we strive for: we want you to connect to your past, and with our services we intend to help you increase your knowledge of your Dutch ancestors.
Are you ready to work on your antecedentia?