Did you know that genealogy is the second-most popular hobby in the United States?
The practice of recording one's ancestry is as old as civilization itself. But for hundreds of years, genealogy was the domain of the wealthy nobility and royalty. Common people appeared in virtually no written records. All of that changed, however, in the 15th and 16th centuries with two major developments:
The Gutenberg Press
Before the invention of the printing press, the clergy of the Church spent all their days copying texts. It took literally years of a monk's life just to copy one Bible. After the advent of movable type, the clergy had more unrestricted time than ever before.
The Council of Trent
From 1545 to 1563, the Catholic Church implemented a series of reforms, some doctrinal and some practical. Among these was a decree to the clergy of one thing that they were required to do with their time: record all the sacraments performed in the Catholic Church, including:
- Extreme unction, or last rites
For the first time, common people-not just the upper crust-appeared in written records. For the first time in the world's history, the study of genealogy on a large scale became possible.
In our day, studying one's ancestors has become an international obsession. Church records and government records alike have come to be used for family history research.
The advent of the internet has only fueled this growth. Today, you can do a Google search and have information at your fingertips within seconds-information that, a couple decades ago, would have taken weeks of letter-writing and microfilm-scrolling to gather.
If you've ever done a search for your ancestry online, you've probably stumbled onto geneology, a common misspelling of the word genealogy. Search engine studies show that the typo geneology is searched for almost as often as the actual word.
What does this mean for you? It means that you should be inventive in your strategies, and search for "geneology" as well. For example, a Google search for "Brown genealogy" yields 423,000 hits. But a search for the misspelled "Brown geneology" yields even more-a staggering 3,650,000! Just think how many results you're missing out on if skip the "geneology." So be creative in your searches-and your spelling. As Mark Twain wrote, "I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way."