By Carol P. McCoy, Ph.D. (Find-Your-Roots.com) © C.P. McCoy (2003)
Tracing one’s family history is a national obsession. People have a deep-seated need to know where they come from, what makes them who they are, and whom they take after. As a psychologist I enjoy learning about people’s lives and how to help them understand themselves. Studying family history helps one to go beyond the present to learn about other people and forces that have helped to shape us.
Understanding your social, cultural, familial, and genetic heritage can shed light on your character, appearance, health, family relationships, and your name. Which side of the family do you resemble? Who do you look like at different ages? Knowing how long your ancestors lived and how they died holds clues for what to watch for in terms of medical problems for you and your descendants. Most likely your journey will help you to discover unknown relatives and to build new friendships.
Knowing family naming patterns gives you a deeper sense of your identity. People of the Jewish faith often name children after a cherished relative who had recently died, whereas Christians often name children after a cherished living relative. Who were you named for—a loved family member, a dear friend, a family associate, or a name that appealed to your parents for some reason? My middle name Prescott is for my maternal grandfather, Prescott Barker Wiske.