The Basics: A Guide
An introduction to genealogy and Dutch family history
The dictionary states that genealogy is a record or table showing the descent of an individual or family from a certain ancestor. It also states that genealogy is the study of pedigrees. When you check any long pedigree, you will find that by the time you get back to the period around 1375 AD, roughly twenty generations of your ancestry have passed. In that twentieth generation you have well over one million direct ancestors and in the period from that generation to today you will have another million ancestors. Among those ancestors there are many common ancestors. However, you are probably no less than 32nd cousin to anyone else.
Genealogy is the basic part of family history. It gives you the names, dates and places. Family history fills out the genealogy. It gives flesh to the bare bones. It is the anecdotal history of the family. My interest in our family history was whetted by a visit to Canada in 1970 from my father's aunt Adriana Pieternella Jacoba Hofstee (born 1903). Tante Ali and her sister Aagje supplied my brother John with enough information to get started on the Hofstee family tree. In 1977 my brother and I started working in earnest on the Hofstee family and two years later I started on my in-law's family. Today we are still collecting information on our families. Even though none of our families are from rich or noble origins we have been able to find out much about them. In the next columns I will explain how to start family research, how to build a family tree and where to find information.
Even though genealogy is a hobby for me, I have also incorporated it into my job, teaching. As part of my Grade 11 French course I have the students research their family roots. They have to do at least four generations beyond themselves. The students have to find names, dates and places of birth, marriage and death for their ancestors. They must also include other information such as schooling, church affiliation, employment, interesting anecdotes (for example, war experience) and also try to tie their ancestor into the time in which they lived. Through this the student gets to know his/her family very well. The skills and techniques used, exercised and learned through personal research are highly important.