Family Trees and the History of Family History

My family tree and that of my husband has been of some interest to us. What I have learned in a nutshell is that the histories of the faith and courage and love those who have gone before us mean the most to us. My grandfather who was able to acquire a job during the depression by being hardworking and pleasant too; who also prayed the rosary nightly regardless of how tired he was, is the history that holds firm with us. My husbands grandfather who helped jews escape from Poland during WWII is the finest example of bravery and selflessness that inspire legends. Yet, he was real and the truth of his gallantry is part of our family legacy for generations. These are the trees and histories that matter to us.


By Jenny Weston

This post was originally inspired by a recent revelation that one of my ancestors may have lived in Leiden in the early 1600s. A particularly unexpected find — given the fact that my family is from the West Coast of Canada (over 7000 km from Leiden) — it was a surprise to find that my ‘eleventh-great-grandfather’ may have lived, literally down the street from our office here in Leiden, almost 400 years ago.

In the wake of this little discovery, I began to wonder about the history of ‘family history’. In the Middle Ages, how did people keep track of their family heritage? How important was it to know where you came from? (Or perhaps, how important was it for others to know where you came from)?

For some medieval families, the task of documenting and publicizing the ‘family tree’ was critically important. This was especially the case for royal and noble…

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