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Old 11-22-2012, 11:14 PM
 
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When exactly did the public's interest in genealogy begin? From all of the old-timers in my family that I spoke to, they seemed to have lacked much interest in it. I know that there may have been some interest back in the old days of those individuals from prominent families. However, like my grandmother once told me, "we just didn't talk about it!" The interest just did not seem to be as big as it is today. However, now, it seems that every family has at least one member who is searching their family's history. The why's of this interest among the general population has already been discussed. However, I am asking about the "when." Anyone remember or have any idea?
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:22 AM
 
Location: Southern California
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I don't have an answer to that, but a lot of families have passed down bibles with their genealogy written in them. I don't think it's a new phenomenon, but I think we're a lot more open about things like out of wedlock births and multiple marriages than they used to be, so maybe we keep better records now.
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Old 11-23-2012, 03:50 AM
 
Location: Verde Valley AZ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lentzr View Post
When exactly did the public's interest in genealogy begin? From all of the old-timers in my family that I spoke to, they seemed to have lacked much interest in it. I know that there may have been some interest back in the old days of those individuals from prominent families. However, like my grandmother once told me, "we just didn't talk about it!" The interest just did not seem to be as big as it is today. However, now, it seems that every family has at least one member who is searching their family's history. The why's of this interest among the general population has already been discussed. However, I am asking about the "when." Anyone remember or have any idea?
I think there's always been some interest in family history but it really went through the roof after Alex Haley's book, and mini-series, Roots came out. I think that was in the mid 70s. I know it piqued MY interest a lot more but I didn't really start to research till about ten years later. A 'late bloomer'. My grandad used to tell me all sorts of stories about the family when I was growing up and that helped too.
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Old 11-23-2012, 07:03 AM
 
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The when and the why are the same, IMO.

We have more free time and mental energy to devote to these things. Finding out what makes up who we are gives meaning to our lives; meaning that we aren't getting elsewhere.
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:52 AM
 
Location: Canada
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I know my aunt was researching the family tree in the 1960s and perhaps even before that. We're just an ordinary family. Research was a lot more difficult back then. Her main means of research seemed to be personal contact and snail mail correspondence with other relatives. It must have been very time consuming. She also discovered a couple of relatives, one a descendant of her great grandfather and another a descendant of her grandfather, who were also researching the family tree.

In 1994 my aunt hosted a family reunion where she handed out a thick loose leaf binder of the results of her research to each of her siblings. I came across the binder 3 years ago and was amazed. In addition to stories and a section of photocopies of photos and newspaper clippings, she had recorded births, marriages and deaths of almost every direct descendant (and their spouses) of her paternal great grandparents, born in the 1820s, and maternal grandparents, born in the 1850s. The binder was current up to the 1990s. There were easily thousands of relatives with data listed in that binder.
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:57 PM
 
Location: Pacific NW
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I started in genealogy pre-Roots. It was around, but there weren't anything like the numbers after that aired. That show increased interest a lot. But the huge explosion came with computers. That exploded interest. Unfortunately, the numbers seem to be made up of a fair percentage of dilettantes ... Happy to find someone else's tree posted online, and to copy it.

In the early 1900s, genealogy was done mostly by people trying to prove their lofty connections. Interest in the genealogy of the common-folk (my ancestors) came a few decades later.
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:50 PM
 
Location: Little Rock AR USA
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I got interested in the early 1960s when my 9th grade son was studying "family history" in school. It was not referred to as "genealogy" in his class. He asked questions which I could not answer so I started digging into it to help his class work. That was LBC&I (Long Before Computers & Internet) and everything was done by snail mail or telephone, and at that time you paid through the nose for long distance phone calls. "Family History" finally morphed into "Genealogy" and I have been hard at work ever since. With all the ins, outs, brick walls, and gold mines I have experienced, the greatest blessing was release of the 1940 Census. It opened some doors which previously been blocked to me.
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Old 11-24-2012, 03:51 AM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
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Genealogy has always been around - you are correct that in history, it was generally only of interest to the higher classes. Go back far enough and it was really only important for the nobility and royalty. In colonial days, many southern upper class women would gather together and do their family's genealogy. This was important to them because the upper class southerners were mostly descended from English aristocracy so it was all about elitism. But of course this lead way to some fabricated trees. This is also why cousin marriage were so much more common in the south of the American colonies than any other colony - they wanted to keep all their power and money within their elite class and within their family.

But that aside, genealogy has not been foreign to people of the past. I picked up our family tree where my maternal grandmother had left off. She had already done a lot of work and gathered a lot of records, photos, and other sources. I think she was doing this in the 70s and/or 80s. It used to be something mostly older people did. I guess because they were retired and had more time on their hands and might even be thinking about their own mortality (feeling like they didn't want to be forgotten after they died and so they should remember their own ancestors).

I think Americans have recently (in the last few decades) taken interest in their genealogy because we have such a mixture of heritages, some of which came to the US not that long ago. I grew up hearing stories about how my Sicilian great grandfather came to the US alone when he was only 14. I wanted to know more about this and confirm it (as it turns out, he was more like 17 and although he did make the trip alone, his father and sister were already in Washington DC waiting for him to join them. His mother and other siblings then made the journey after him). These are things we're now proud to say about our ancestors but during the time, there was a lot of prejudice towards foreign minorities and their descendants and so immigrants would do their best to shed their heritage. It's only been in more recent decades that we can be proud to talk about our blue collar, industrial revolution immigrant ancestors and so we want to learn more about it, to rediscover the heritage that was lost when immigrants would come to America to BE American.

I also think it's really flourished in popularity and among more age groups in the last few years, thanks in part to Ancestry.com. Like it or not, their marketing has really brought a lot of attention to genealogy in general. The drawback to that is many people will take a minor interest in something so popular and then abandon it the moment they realize it's not that easy.
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:37 AM
 
Location: Little Rock AR USA
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Long story short, which I have posted here before. When I first started, I talked to an aunt-in-law who had been around my grandpa (who wouldn't talk about it) so I thought she would know from hearing family stories. Well, the only thing she would talk about was that we came from English Royalty, or an Indian Princess, or an Indian Chief, all of which turned out to be untrue. One day after getting tired of hearing about the Indian Chief, I said, "Mary, I believe you, because I know our [family] women would not be a plain old Indian Brave". She went ballistic, but never again talked about the important ancestors.
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Old 11-24-2012, 09:23 AM
bjh
 
Location: Memphis - home of the king
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The New England Historic Genealogy Society (NEHGS) has been around since 1845.
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