Genealogy has an important place in the Bible. Perhaps the best known examples are in the Old Testament with the long lists of who begat whom. (I have copied one from I Chronicles below.) Genealogies provide legitamacy in the Old Testament; there were prophecies about a Messiah descended from King David so in the New Testament (Matthew and Luke), there are two, differing, genealogies of Jesus. You can read more about those by consulting any of the commentaries that we have in the library on the books of Matthew or Luke. One of the questions that is brought up is why was Jesus' lineage traced back through Joseph if Joseph was not Jesus' biological father? Enquiring minds want to know. Most modern biblical scholars see the genealogies as inventions to fit in with Jewish literary conventions.
Interest in genealogy didn't stop in Biblical times. Witness the popularity of television programs like "Who Do You Think You Are" and "Finding Your Roots". The Internet has made researching your family tree much easier, but there are still pitfalls. When I was dabbling in some research, I was dismayed by the many different spellings of my ancestors' names, some of which led me off on wild goose chases. Then there were the people on an ancestry website who had created family trees based on wild goose information. How had a woman in Australia come up with the idea that my grandfather had married my grandmother's sister instead of my grandmother? You can make so many wrong turns, but oh, the excitement to trace your family back hundreds of years! There are photographs, there are wills, there are extracts from old (very old) books.
A lot of people want to find out if they are descended from royalty or a famous (or infamous) person. Not me, but when a famous (or infamous) person turned up, I was tremendously excited. I couldn't wait to tell everyone that August Strindberg had been married to my great-grandfather's niece. They were unimpressed. The great Swedish playwright?, I said. Uncomprehending looks. Miss Julie? The Father? The marriage did not last long. Strindberg did refer to women as "half-apes ... mad ... criminal, instinctively evil animals."
If you would like to see what falls out when you shake your family tree, here is a book to help you:
Finding your famous (& infamous) ancestors : uncover the celebrities, rogues, and royals in your family tree /McClure, Rhonda R. 929.1 MCC
(Portrait of August Strindberg)
1 Chronicles 1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
From Adam to Abraham
1 Adam, Seth, Enosh; 2 Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; 3 Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; 4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
5 The descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.6 The descendants of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Diphath,[a] and Togarmah. 7 The descendants of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.[b]
8 The descendants of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 9 The descendants of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raama, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 10 Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first to be a mighty one on the earth.
11 Egypt became the father of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 12 Pathrusim, Casluhim, and Caphtorim, from whom the Philistines come.[c]
13 Canaan became the father of Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, 14 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 15 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 16 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites.
17 The descendants of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, Aram, Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech.[d] 18 Arpachshad became the father of Shelah; and Shelah became the father of Eber. 19 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg (for in his days the earth was divided), and the name of his brother Joktan. 20 Joktan became the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 21 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 22 Ebal, Abimael, Sheba, 23 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the descendants of Joktan.
24 Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah; 25 Eber, Peleg, Reu; 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah; 27 Abram, that is, Abraham.
From Abraham to Jacob
28 The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael. 29 These are their genealogies: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema,31 Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael. 32 The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: she bore Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan: Sheba and Dedan. 33 The sons of Midian: Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the descendants of Keturah.
34 Abraham became the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel. 35 The sons of Esau: Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. 36 The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zephi, Gatam, Kenaz, Timna, and Amalek. 37 The sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.
38 The sons of Seir: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. 39 The sons of Lotan: Hori and Homam; and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 40 The sons of Shobal: Alian, Manahath, Ebal, Shephi, and Onam. The sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah. 41 The sons of Anah: Dishon. The sons of Dishon: Hamran, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. 42 The sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Jaakan.[e] The sons of Dishan:[f] Uz and Aran.
43 These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Israelites: Bela son of Beor, whose city was called Dinhabah. 44 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah of Bozrah succeeded him. 45 When Jobab died, Husham of the land of the Temanites succeeded him. 46 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him; and the name of his city was Avith.47 When Hadad died, Samlah of Masrekah succeeded him. 48 When Samlah died, Shaul[g]of Rehoboth on the Euphrates succeeded him. 49 When Shaul[h] died, Baal-hanan son of Achbor succeeded him. 50 When Baal-hanan died, Hadad succeeded him; the name of his city was Pai, and his wife’s name Mehetabel daughter of Matred, daughter of Me-zahab.51 And Hadad died.