I have wondered for a while about the widespread interest in genealogy in the last few years. Ancestry runs television ads for software, while PBS has shows with Henry Louis Gates tracing the past of celebrities. TLC has a show “Who Do You Think You Are?” which similarly works with various people to explore their families’ past.
I got interested many years ago because my grandparents had died and I realized I knew very little about their forebears. My parents, like many of their generation, had broken with the past and carved out new lives thousands of miles from their beginnings. They were future oriented and had little time to talk about earlier times. I suspect many baby boomers have similar stories. We found ourselves somewhat adrift and curious about where we had come from. Perhaps, too, the urge to seem only American and not anything else had passed for our generation. We were willing to embrace our various ethnic beginnings without shame.
I have been astonished to learn about the lives of many of my ancestors. It has made American history take shape in a personal way. I have had to learn about migration patterns, learning about canals and railroads as I went. I would be intrigued to know why others take up this hobby. Feel free to send me a comment.