If you are familiar with genealogy you are also familiar with the question of 'Why?'. Genealogy is a task which is theoretically unending and, if we are going to be truthful, one that seems under-appreciated by those who do not share the interest. The family genealogist often has to justify their efforts to others, and occasionally to themselves. It might be thousands of hours of work. Why would anyone do it?
My mother treasured family above all things. I think that for her collecting information and photos was an expression of her appreciation of family. Much like we will stop on our vacation and take a photo of a beautiful landscape so that people who were not there can appreciate, to some small affect, the beauty we saw. To her family was beauty and it's history was her snapshot. Read more about her research in Early Days of the Hunt.
Connecting to History
My answer to the question of 'Why?' has more to do with an interest in history. I live in modern days surrounded by technology and information. My life is unaffected by so many of the trials that challenged my ancestors that I feel disconnected with how world history has brought us to this point. I want to know their struggles and learn a little about what life was like for them.
When I look at the timeline of history I really enjoy putting my ancestors into that context and I find that it connects me to events of the past that might have motivated them to make choices. Some of the best conversations you can have with people is to ask them about their lives and hear why they made the choices they did.
Speaking with the Dead
In a small way my family history is a conversation with the dead (and living) about what they accomplished and what choices they made. Some people leave volumes of information behind about their experiences while others leave almost no trace at all. I find the conversation gives me a lot to think about as I find my own way through life. Learning how some people walked their own paths and faced things which I will never experience is enriching.