29 August 2011

Genealogy and longevity

Living to age 100 isn't something most of us spend a lot of time worrying about. I don't. The editors of the Wall Street Journal have it in mind and look at the real possibility of people living way past 100, and the implications in this article.

Naturally they don't consider the implications for family history.

Would having great-great-grandparents around change our approach to exploring our roots? As oral family history became potentially more available would we exploit the potential devoting more time to it? After all it's the rare genealogist who doesn't regret they didn't find out more from an elderly relative before it was too late. Or would we procrastinate as many have before?

Would our family history societies prosper as older people continue to take an interest in their roots?  Or would they suffer as people delayed becoming interested because they had to continue on in the workforce beyond today's retirement age when many start taking exploring their roots seriously?

Perhaps before this becomes an issue we'll reach the limits of genealogy, everyone will be connected to the grand family tree, or a few trees, pushed back to the practical limit of existing records.

For a time there will remain some family history to explore as we discover more about our ancestors' lives. But that too may well dry up. There surely is a practical limit on how much of the minutiae of their lives we actually care about.

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