The Journey To Me

Ancestral Profiling
a monthly column by Colleen McHugh


Ancestral Research is all about… well, your ancestors of course! We skim through matches of a keyword search, we read documents and records, we analyze the information gleaned, we record the demographics of those shown to be “ours”, and we cite the sources that told us so. It’s all about them!


Ancestral Profiling is all about … well, you!  It’s just a different way of learning about you than the typical introspection we tend to do as we maneuver through this life.  My first genealogy-related presentation was entitled “When the Past Meets the Present to Change the Future”. The focus of this lecture was to teach us  how we can use family history to learn about ourselves, and hopefully use the information learned to prepare or even change things for the better in the future.


Ancestral Profiling requires traditional ancestral research to obtain demographic information about who our ancestors were and when/where they lived.  It involves knowing what they did for a living, what they did for fun, and many other dynamics. Just like traditional ancestral research, ancestral profiling requires you to start your journey with you. So without further ado, let us begin the “Journey to Me”.


The first step in learning about you by learning about them (your ancestors) is to do a little bit of the typical introspection mentioned above. There’s no need to go overboard here; just give some thought about the things that make you who you are. It is never a bad idea to keep a journal or other form of expression to record these thoughts. Not only would it help you clarify your thoughts, it would save your descendants a lot of work for themselves down the road!


Things to consider when formulating your own personality profile include the following:

  • Things you like about you
  • Things you don’t like about you (do not dwell on this!)
  • Things others like about you (if applicable, what about you did your partner fall in love with?)
  • Your religious views, spirituality, and/or faith.
  • Your political views (sometimes it’s okay to talk about religion and politics!)
  • Your education
  • Your occupation
  • Your parenting style
  • Your idea of fun, boring, interesting, etc.


There are many more things, of course. No one is all that simple! But it’s important to get a conscious understanding of who you are to start out. I suspect down the road of your research you will learn things about you that you never thought about until you learned about that trait in an ancestor!


Once you formulate your own personality profile, keep it in a safe place (which could simply be in your own head if that’s sufficient for you!).  It is also good to consider the personalities of your siblings and parents, as well. You can get as formal as you wish (putting it all in a journal) or as informal as you want (giving it conscious thought but not recording it). Remember, it’s all about you and that means YOU get to make the rules.


Future editions of this article will feature personality-based information you can gather from traditional genealogical data, oral family histories, and the use of social networking to strengthen your ancestral profile!



Colleen McHugh is the author of Ancestral Profiling, a genealogical education column that appears monthly in The In-Depth Genealogist. Colleen also blogs about genealogy at Orations of OMcHodoy.

© Colleen McHugh (Orations of OMcHodoy) 2012

This article originally appeared in the June issue of The In-Depth Genealogist. Receive The In-Depth Genealogist free by subscribing HERE.