As this is a time we think about family - do you really know who is in yours? I thought I did and came to a rude awakening when I found out some deep family secrets. That was over ten years ago and I had been exploring family history for ten years before that.
Now I have traced my mother's family back to the Thirteenth Century and my dad's - a lot further than that.
Family history or genealogy is extremely addictive once you get started - everytime you find out a new fact you want more. The information is out there thouh you need to start at home by looking in old cartons and talking to old aunts and uncles. Then using the library or a trial membership in Ancestry.com and the LDS Family History site put in a name of a relative, grandparent, or older and folllow where it takes you, which may sound like a commercial for Ancestry but believe me its true.
Try it - you might find a whole lot of saints and sinners hidden in your past and even some living relatives you didn't know you had. I did.
Actually two of my paternal relatives really were Saints (according to both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches) and two of my maternal relatives were important Rabbis in the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
Many were 'nobility" of various degrees or title depending on country and a large group from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries were "founding families" in the United States, particularly in Virginia.
On the sinner side, some sons even plotted to kill their father and other relatives lost their heads (literally) for being on the wrong side of a war - and their own cousins were wielding the ax (or directing it).
Records, documents and scholarly articles really do show how life and society has changed and that alone is worth the research (if you are used to computer terms, I have scanned or copied over 75 gigabytes of data, photos, maps, family crests, scholarly articles and the like.)
Amongst the documents was copy of a "death warrant" for King Charles I of England (signed by Gilbert Millington who was in turn condemned for it but exiled for life to the Channel Island of Jersey); to a transcribed copy of a late 1700's will of another cousin, in Virginia - unique mostly because how property was "lent" to his widow, not given and only until she remarried or died, then it reverted to his sons.
Certainly in the early colonial days the number of large landowners were small and the family sizes large so intermarriage was apt to also create some fascinating relationships. The Warner family of Virginia (who were themselves Plantagenet and thus related to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine - think "Lion in Winter" and Kings, Dukes and Earls on both sides of the Wars of the Roses) were related the Jeffries family and Sowell family (my aunt was a Sowell great great grandaughter) as well as the Washingtons (Augustus Warner sold the land for what was to become Mount Vernon to the Washingtons; his daughter was George's grandmother), Randolphs (Peyton Randolph, Presidnt of the First Continental Congress, Jeffersons (President Thomas), Lees (Gen. Robert E), Marshalls (Chief Justice John) and Lewises ( Lewis and Clark.) All of which makes for a great history lesson and a good case for how we are all related.
But equally important (at least from a personal point of view) is what you can discover about your current family particularly if you for one reason or another did not know one side of the family and were lied to about the other (a story for another time)
I located 21 first cousins and numerous others up to 5th cousins around the world that I correspond with - some of who had pictures of me as a baby and of my parents that I never thought existed, that they sent to me. I think we counted well over 300 living relatives from both sides of my family across the United States, Latin America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and Israel and the number keeps growing.
Most important of all was the discovery that my dad remarried after my parents divorced and I had a sister I didn't know about and nephews, nieces and great nephews and nieces that I never expected to have!
Do you really know who is in your family? I didn't in 1993 and twenty years later have thousands of pages of documents and back-up material showing relationships that go back two millenium and encompass over 27,000 people from Marc Antony to Richard the Lion Heart and his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine to Robert E Lee and George Washington. And it is still growing.
What can you find ? Jump into it and you can even blame me if you get addicted to it.