Having ancestors who were part of major historical events, makes those events more realistic but also more emotive. The best example of this is the First World War, where many of us who have researched our family tree; or just simply heard stories past down from family members that there is a story to tell and a real connection to past events and people.
That is all well and good as it is of recent history, if you call 100 years recent. The problems occur when you go further back into the 18th, 17th and 16th century and even further back then that. I argue that this is a problem because I do not just want to know a name, a place and particular dates in their lives such as birth, marriage and death. See I want to know about who they were as people based on where they lived and what was going on in that time period.
You would think doing history at school may have helped in some of these matters and it does somewhat. Looking at the French and American civil wars aids in the smallest part, but when looking at 16th century of the United Kingdom, it was not as united as we know it is today! I know history on the monarchy and the royalism of these centuries, but when it comes to the common people of the day I know nothing, which is frustrating.
But why is it frustrating you may ask when we have the instant connection of the internet?
The reason is that some of it is accurate, but not all of it. But just because it is at the click of a mouse in a search engine box makes researching history no easier I must say. Blame it in choice maybe, but when I was younger and I needed information I went to a book. I could go back to these methods again but this will require travel to these places, which I do not mind. These places are all over like in Scotland and Wales. I find Scottish history in these time periods fascinating and not in a romanticised version either. But a true picture of what went on!
In my family tree I do have Welsh and Irish as well as English and Scottish, but because of the records in Scotland I have had a lot more luck here then with other areas of the UK. It could be argued that is why I am drawn to that part of my family tree because of the luck in finding ancestors.
Even with all the records and fast speed connection I find my knowledge lacking substantially. I feel I should know these things because it is history of our country! Maybe blame the lack of knowledge on the education system and what is on the curriculum, rather than anything else.
It is not just a history lesson that I have had, but also a geography lesson which I have thoroughly enjoyed oddly. Again it gives more realism to a person in the context of where they lived, rather than just knowing a name of a place without anything else.
Furthermore I am always eager to learn more as I say it again it gives more realism to someone rather than a name and a few facts. History of somewhere and some place gives us in the present day a small clue to a presumption and assumption of how out ancestors may or may not have behaved in a particular time or event.
Either way it makes history excited and accessible to us all, by simply looking back at our own genealogy.