In recent years, ancestry has become a focus of intrigue for many, with the increased use of at-home ancestry analysis kits and the huge popularity of ancestry shows. More than ever, people are learning about the history of their families, and where they fit into the big picture of humanity’s family tree.
In 2019, a study showed that more than 26 million consumers took part in at-home DNA tests and predicted that number would reach 100 million in 2021, with additional ancestry companies emerging in that time. But why are we so interested in our lineage?
As humans, we have an innate connection to our ancestors and strive to care for those who we share our genetics with. This process is called kin selection and is a primal and evolutionary notion that involves preserving genetic lineage to aid with the survival of the species. So, could it be said that we are genetically programmed to be concerned with our ancestors?
In historian Francois Weil’s book Family Trees, he documents an alternative origin of tracing our ancestry and says that our impulse to seek this information out relates to proof of class and stature. According to Weil via lithub.com, “the idea of establishing one’s family line was associated with the British aristocracy’s obsession with social rank”.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the period Weil is referring to, class meant access to better services, resources and a standard of living, so proving that you were of higher regard was important. This diminished over time as class became less of a defining factor, and people also began moving all over the globe, settling and making new families which made it harder to trace family trees.
Fast forward to today, and genealogy has been made easier due to the ease of access to information. Records are now digitally stored, increasing the ability to trace family lineage at the touch of a button. High-speed indexes and transcripts are available as publicly accessible information, meaning people can do their own research from the comfort of their own homes. This has accelerated the growth of interest in ancestry in parallel with the ease of accessibility to this information.
An additional reason for the rise in the popularity of genealogy could be down to television programs such as ITV’s ‘Long Lost Family’ and the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, which garners around 5.9 million average viewers per episode. In an interview with Wall to Wall, Richard Klein, Director of Factual at ITV, said that shows like Long Lost Family resonate with people from any background, as most people have complicated family stories and these shows “show how important the family is in the hearts of the British people.” Long Lost Family is in its fourth series and features unique stories that are deeply personal, yet we can all identify with them.
At My Story Told, we help individuals preserve their life stories in their own words. The aim is to produce a family heirloom that will be handed down to generations to come, creating a family treasure that will both preserve your legacy and offer a unique insight into what life was like during your lifetime.