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  • Writer's pictureRichard M. Bay

Why we need Social Genealogy

Sunday dinner vegetables in my home are a tradition. And by saying a tradition, I mean, if anyone messes up the way they cook the vegetables, they are in for a rude reception at the dinner table. My kids generally hate vegetables, but there is one kind they like. It’s a simple enough recipe. You get a frozen bag of mixed vegetables, spread them out on a cookie sheet and sprinkle them with a healthy amount of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt. Then move the oven rack to the top shelf and put the oven on broil to let them cook. The result is a toasty vegetable that is amazing and healthy! My wife learned the technique from a family matriarch when we visited them one weekend in the Texas Hill Country. After getting back from church on Sunday, the loving grandmother made dinner and passed on this vegetable family tradition on to my wife. That was about seven years ago, and from that time until now the veggies no longer get cooked alongside the Sunday roast.

But here is the issue. The sweet grandma that passed this family tradition on to my wife was not related to us at all. It was the mother of the man my kids know as Uncle Tyler. Uncle Tyler has no relation to us at all, he’s my best friend. The Sunday veggie recipe is not the only family tradition that has been passed to my family out of bloodline. My connection to Tyler’s family runs so deep that when his uncle died in a plane crash a few weeks ago, I sent flowers to the funeral. Tyler has had as much, if not more, influence on my family here in Texas as my flesh and blood brother that lives in Utah. The issue then becomes, when my grandkids look back at where the family dinner veggie recipe came from, there is no existing process to capture the link back to Tyler’s mother. And this represents a significant flaw in the way we approach our genealogy system.

Think of it this way, when raising a child, some of the ways they turn out is dependent on its genetics…. Nature. But several of the child’s characteristics are learned behaviors, a product of the environment where the child grew up, and the people that influenced him/her… Nurture.

The debate used to be Nature vs. Nurture. Now we know it’s both…but in genealogy, we only address the Nature side of the equation. I think we are missing out on a richness of relationships that help define our human relationships. Those relationships, the great influences that others have on us, should be recognized and recorded. A mentor has no less impact on a child’s (or adult’s) life than a blood Uncle. We are ignoring the Nurture aspects of our uniqueness and heritage.

The effect of this goes beyond my simple story about Uncle Tyler. We have deep issues with adopted kids, kids of gay couples, and several other situations where the Nurture side of the equation is much more important than the Nature side of it.

Prosapia has coined a term for these Nurture type of relationships, we call it Social Genealogy. Every link on the Prosapia family tree has an option to add these vital and important connections between those who are not related genetically. And it doesn’t stop there. The importance of social genealogy goes well beyond the situations described above. Social Genealogy encompasses everything that makes an individual ancestor unique: the schools they attended, the churches they belonged to, the civil service they dutifully served, the places they worked or traveled to, the treasured family heirlooms they passed down…etc, etc.

Now you may be asking, why is this important for building the tree of humanity?

Two reasons:

1. Because Social Genealogy is powerful in helping find ancestors that may have been lost

through direct family records.

2. Genealogy is innately community building. A community is

much, much more than just blood relations.

At Prosapia, we focus on creating new tools, science, and technology that strengthen the human family through every type of interaction, collaboration, and relationship.

Honor your Ancestors, both in Nature and Nurture, Genetic and Social.

Richard M. Bay

Co-Founder of the Prosapia Foundation.

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