Can the experiences of your ancestors impact your life today?
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Family members headline today’s puzzle – from your parents to your great grandparents and beyond, the family you belong to shapes you in ways you may not even realise.
For instance, an epidemiological study, discussed in the behavioural science website Psychology Today, focused on Dutch women from 1944 to 1945, when they went through a famine that was later called The Hunger Winter. Researchers found that a mother’s starvation impacted the birth weights of children who had been in the womb during that challenging time. The children of malnourished mothers later went on to have children of their own, but discovered that they had higher rates of obesity in their adult years. The traumatic stress in the wombs of Dutch mothers actually transferred to not just the next generation, but all the way to their great-grandchildren – three generations later.
The study of such hereditary impact is called behavioral epigenetics and findings have documented that our ancestors’ trauma can affect the expression or suppression of certain genes – not only for the person involved in that particular period, but for later generations as well.
This is just one reason why it would be worth putting one’s family tree to paper, and learning about one’s ancestry.
US-based National Genealogical Society shares tips on its website on how to build a family tree. The first step is to use personal knowledge, gathered by organising any documents you might have from your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. For instance, you could use birth certificates, obituaries, letters and newspaper articles.
Next, get in touch with family members – especially your oldest relatives – and interview them about their lives. Ask specific questions about locations in which they lived, when other relatives known to them were born and died, and where they are buried, and so on.
Finally, read how-to books to learn the basics of genealogical methodology, or use tools on ancestry websites to log the information you have collected, and to build and grow your family tree. As you do so, you may get a hit, and even have the opportunity to connect with a relative you never knew about.
How much do you know about your ancestors? Play today’s Word Search and share your thoughts at email@example.com.