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Genealogy In General

Family history is the study of humanity through time and involves tracing a continuous line of descent from a given ancestor.  In past times First Nation people were taught to memorize their genealogy and this data was recited at marriages, funerals and at other feasts and ceremonies.  Over time, the ability to trace ones ancestry by memory became a lost art.  Today a Mi'gmaq or Maliseet person wishing to trace his or her ancestry must search through vital records such as births, marriages and deaths, and through various government and private records to obtain information.  To the vital data is added biographical and historical material such as accounts of early life and times, education, dwelling places, lifestyle, occupations and accomplishments. 

The goal of a genealogical project is to identify an individual and to place them in a family that must be placed in a social, economic and religious context; then, how that family interacted with various people, families and institutions within and outside of First Nation communities.  Genealogists learn to interpret past events as they seek to answer the questions of Who? Where? When? How? and Why?

There has been a marked increase in the number of people in recent years seeking to establish First Nation status through genealogical research.  This includes people of the Mi'gmaq and Maliseet First Nations.  Such research encourages an interest in history, folklore, customs, crafts and art.  Teachers are using genealogy to help students develop an interest in historical events, first from a family point of view and then from a provincial, national and international perspective.  Some First Nation people go on to attend university and train in historical methodology.  They look at genealogy from a broader historic and scientific perspective.  Some students continue their research work beyond classroom requirements and school projects, leading to the creation of a fascinating lifelong hobby.

An upcoming anniversary may prompt interest in writing an account of the First People and their contributions to a First Nation's communal history.  An important anniversary of a school, church or some other public building, or a society, club or similar organization may lead to the production of a genealogical  publication to mark the occasion.  All of these projects involve research into the history of individuals, families and First Nation communities.  Whatever the reason, there is an increasing number of people of all ages and from all walks of life who are feeling the need to explore their family history.

In conducting family history research, a sense of adventure creeps in, as participants become detectives on the trail of clues that will solve a mystery.  Genealogical projects are excellent ways to meet people and to travel with a special purpose.  To those just starting a family history project, great rewards are in store.  Information discovered in the home, in interviews with elderly relatives, within churches, libraries, archives and other places help the past come alive!  Once one gets involved in a genealogical project, one develops a desire to read and learn about the history of the place where their ancestors lived, to visit the old church or graveyard, and to meet and talk with relatives.  Family history study can produce a sense of continuity and a feeling of belonging.  It also tends to bring people closer together and promotes a better understanding, awareness and appreciation of the worth of others.

Another reward for doing family history is the acquisition of a deeper love for our ancestors and a realization of the great debt of gratitude that we owe them for playing a part in our very existence.  Family history is an exciting, challenging and rewarding undertaking that can lead to the discovery of interesting facts concerning our ancestors.  No matter how humble our origins, each of us has a family history that is dramatic and fascinating.  Genealogical research enlightens and instructs, and, it is a lot of fun!