Family Tree vocabulary: The Hobbit traces his ancestors

 
Lots of family tree vocabulary in our glossary will help you understand all the words in the article below. Watch the video, read the text and then vote and/or leave a comment about your opinion on the hobby - not, Hobbit :) - of finding out about your ancestors.
 
 

Family Tree vocabulary

family tree
a record of the people in your family going back in history
lineage
you family line through history going back to an ancestor
great great grandfather
In English we don't have different names for different past generations. If you are talking about your grandfather's father, this is the great grandfather. You add another 'great' to the name for every other generation that you go back to
to have a likeness
to physically look the same as someone else
mum's side of the family
your mother's family
family traits
characteristics that are the same amongst people in your family, like red hair or blue eyes
to be the black sheep of the family
to be the one person in your family who is considered to be different (in a negative way) to all the other family members
distant relative
someone who is not in your immediate family, like a cousin twice removed, or a great, great uncle three times removed
heritage
object or qualities that have been passed down from previous generations
branch of the tree
one side of the family (mother or father's)
public records
historical official documents that anyone can look at
to trace
to find/discover or describe the origin of something by investigating
ancestors
a person, from before your grandparents generation, that you are descended from
census
public record taken every 10 years giving lots of details about all the people in a country
cause of death
how a person died
predecessors
a thing/person that has been followed by another

 
 

Looking into your family's past

 
Why is it that people only start getting interested in their family tree once they get older? Do they want to look back into their lineage to see if their great, great, great grandfather was someone famous or important?

Perhaps it's because people want to understand if they have a likeness to someone from their mum's side of the family. Or maybe they have noticed that some family traits have been passed down to their own children and they want to discover if that characteristic has appeared before in their family history.

It could even be that they have a suspicion that they are the black sheep of the family and they want to prove that there was someone further back, maybe some distant relative, who was definitely more of a misfit than them.

As you can see in the video below, there is a BBC TV series called Who Do You Think You Are in which famous people (famous in the UK, that is!) investigate their heritage with the help of genealogical experts. Quite often, the celebrity ends up in tears when they find out that something sad or tragic happened to one or more of their family. The experts go through various public records to trace the ancestors and of course, find a lot of information from the census.

In the clip here, the actor Martin Freeman, who has the starring role in The Hobbit movie finds out about his previous generations. He is very interested in finding out about his Dad's side of the family because his father died when he was only 10, so he doesn't know much about that branch of the tree.

 
However, for me, the problem with constructing a genealogical record is that the official documents only give you basic information like the date of birth, occupation, husband's/wife's name and maybe the cause of death. There is quite a lot of imagination and guesswork involved in making assumptions about your predecessors, so that you can make the story interesting.

Also, recently I spoke to a student who has an uncle that traced her family tree all the way back to the 16th Century. That's very impressive of course, but one thing worried me (and her) about it all: she said that her uncle had got her date of birth wrong. He had put 1984 as her date of birth, not 1983. Well, if he couldn't even get the current generation's details correct, then how can anyone trust the other 'facts' that he found going back four centuries!
 
[poll id='63']

 

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