What Is Genealogy and Why Should You Care?

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13327

Think you might be related to Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, or George Washington? Would you like to find out? Learn what genealogy is and why it's important, and start on a lifelong journey of discovery!


Practical Life Skills, Social Studies

Life Skills
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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As you begin to study your family's genealogy, some of the terms may be a bit confusing.

For example, see if you know this term.

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Genealogy is the study of a person or a family's unique history. It's tracing our roots back to learn about our heritage.

Along the way, we may find lost relatives, solve some old mysteries, and get the facts about many questions that have long gone unanswered.

In this first lesson of our Genealogy series, get a basic overview of genealogy: what it is, why people research it, and what you can find out when you begin to study it!

Watch the video below to learn from a professional genealogist just what genealogy is and some of the terms used. As you watch, write down the answers to the following questions.

  • What is genealogy?
  • What are direct lines?
  • What are collateral lines?
  • What are descendants and ancestors?
  • What is a generation?
  • What are some forms of a family tree?

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The two forms of family trees mentioned in the video are the pedigree chart and the fan chart.

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In this series of Related Lessons, found in the right-hand sidebar, you will put together a family tree (or add to one you already have).

There will be some more terms to learn before starting your research, so get some of those terms of the relationships straight now!

  • Did you answer the opening question correctly? Did you know what a second cousin, once removed is?

Even if you guessed correctly, watch the following video to learn more.

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Now, take a look at some of the things you may find when delving into your family histories!

Seeing the Big Picture


One of the things you'll learn is that you're connected to everyone!

  • Not sure about that?

Genealogist Elizabeth Mills says it's true in this next video.

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Finding Lost Relatives

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Many people who've been adopted decide to search for their biological families at some point. This leads to interesting discoveries and often brings much joy and a stronger connection.

Watch the video below to see what happened when long-lost brothers found each other.

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Learning About Ancestors and Ethnic Heritage

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Discovering your ancestors and your ethnic heritage can really expand your understanding of who you are.

Watch as Kieron, from the above video, goes even farther into his family history and learns about his ancestors in Africa.

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Of course, it's not always good news when you learn about your ancestors.

They may have done things you are not proud of. You have to be prepared for some sad stories, even shocking revelations.

Watch as a man learns that a member of his family was not what he thought.

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Solving Mysteries

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When studying your family history, you may come across a name you don't recognize and ask: who is this person?

Just like any mystery, you need to gather some clues in order to solve it. Watch the Ancestry video below as a young woman learns who one of her ancestors was and what he did.

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  • So how do people find all this information?

Fortunately for us today, we can find a lot of genealogy information on the internet.

  • Is it very difficult to find and keep track of it all?

No, not really. You can do as much or as little research as you want. Then, you can organize and present it in any way you choose!

Maybe you think genealogy is only for professionals or adults. Not so!

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  • Would you like to be a genealogist too?

Move on to the Got It? section to review what you've learned and get a handle on some useful genealogical terms.

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