In a 2014 article in Time Magazine opinion article Gregory Rodriquez says that genealogy is nearly as popular as pornography as Americans obsessed with their ancestry has spawned a billion-dollar cottage industry. ABC News Good Morning America reports that genealogy is now a $1.6 billion hobby. The obsession with ancestry helps explain the popularity of the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” which is hosted by noted Harvard scholar, Henry Louis Gates Jr.
So what explains our obsession with our roots?
I am not a genealogy “geek” although I have met plenty of them. In America there are hundreds of ancestral lineage societies that people with proven genealogies aspire to. Perhaps the best know is the Daughters of the American Revolution or the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Many people I have encountered in my search for the past were obsessed with linking their line to British or European royalty. Online one can find many family trees that link back to ancient Rome.
To my mind, our obsession with our family roots is rooted in our rootlessness. We are out of touch, disconnected and fragmented by modern life. We no longer live in tight-knit family units or tribes. We no longer tell stories of our ancestors around the camp fire.
Honestly, how many of us know what tribe we descend from?
National Geographic’s Genographic Project using simple DNA swabs from people around the world has tested 150,000 DNA markers to trace the emergence and migration of mankind.