1st Edition

The Psychology of Family History Exploring Our Genealogy

    136 Pages
    by Routledge

    136 Pages
    by Routledge

    This important book examines the motives that drive family historians and explores whether those who research their ancestral pedigrees have distinct personalities, demographics or family characteristics. It describes genealogists’ experiences as they chart their family trees including their insights, dilemmas and the fascinating, sometimes disturbing and often surprising, outcomes of their searches.

    Drawing on theory and research from psychology and other humanities disciplines, as well as from the authors’ extensive survey data collected from over 800 amateur genealogists, the authors present the experiences of family historians, including personal insights, relationship changes, mental health benefits and ethical dilemmas. The book emphasises the motivation behind this exploration, including the need to acknowledge and tell ancestral stories, the spiritual and health-related aspects of genealogical research, the addictiveness of the detective work, the lifelong learning opportunities and the passionate desire to find lost relatives.

    With its focus on the role of family history in shaping personal identity and contemporary culture, this is fascinating reading for anyone studying genealogy and family history, professional genealogists and those researching their own history.

    Chapter 1: Family history: assion and popularity

    Chapter 2: Spiritual and religious underpinnings of genealogy

    Chapter 3: Identity: who do I think I am?

    Chapter 4: Biological realities: who am I genetically?

    Chapter 5: Beyond the self: altruistic and intergenerational motives

    Chapter 6: Family history as therapy

    Chapter 7: The genealogical detective: cognitive motives for family history research

    Chapter 8: Health: what are my inherited health risks?

    Chapter 9: Ethical dilemmas: what should I do now?

    Chapter 10: Conclusion: family historians and their future challenges


    Susan Moore is a widely published developmental social psychologist whose major research interests encompass both adolescent and senior life stages. She is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Swinburne University, a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and an active family historian.

    Doreen Rosenthal is a developmental social psychologist. Her recent research interests include ageing, and sexual and reproductive health. Professor Rosenthal is Professor Emerita at the University of Melbourne and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and in 2003 she was made an Officer in the Order of Australia for her national and international research.

    Rebecca Robinson is a computer scientist with a keen interest in theology, ethics and the role of religion in social mores. She has published several articles in prestigious computer science journals. She was awarded the Dean’s Prize for Christian Thought and History at Whitley College, University of Divinity, Australia, in 2017.



    'Family historians know that genealogy is more than a simple hobby – but what exactly is its appeal? This book explores this question by examining the motivations, benefits and challenges of family history research for individuals, their families and communities. Presenting serious scholarship in an easy-to-read way, it gives us a fascinating insight into this increasingly popular pursuit'.– Dr Kate Bagnall, Senior Lecturer in Humanities and Course Coordinator, Diploma of Family History, University of Tasmania, Tasmania

    'A truly engaging look at why people trace their ancestors. I'd highly recommend the book to anyone interested in finding out why genealogy brings out such passion in people and how it fits into the creation of self-identity. An essential addition to the study of genealogy and psychology'. Tahitia McCabe, Knowledge Exchange Fellow for Postgraduate Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Programme, University of Strathclyde, UK

    'A thought-provoking account of why we genealogists spend so much time and effort researching our family history. Highly recommended reading for those at all stages of the family history research journey'. Dr Jenny Redman, President, Genealogical Society of Victoria, Australia