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How Key Psychological Theories Can Enrich Our Understanding of Our Ancestors

Family historians can increase their understanding of their ancestors and themselves, as well as improve the mental health of living and future generations if they consider the psychological history of their forebears.

By familiarising themselves with psychological theories, genealogists could begin to recognize their family’s unique psychological inheritance that can appear as unresolved trauma, depression, or addiction.

In this article, I explore three generations of a Parker family branch from Huntingdon/Norfolk, England, to show family historians how such considerations can shed light on their family’s psychological legacy. I do this by introducing you to my great-grandmother Ann, grandfather Walter, and mother Doreen through the lens of attachment theory, and their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as poverty, bereavement, and addiction in a parent. Attachment matters because it affects how safe we feel, our ability to regulate our emotions and stress, our adaptability, resilience, and lifelong mental and physical health. Children’s attachment patterns are greatly influenced by those of their parents, so attachment style has a critical effect on each branch of the family tree.

In addition, I use attachment theory to speculate on the likely attachment styles for the three generations of the Parker family and look at the possible parenting behavior in the first two, as well as the effect of alcoholism and the intergenerational impact of trauma and depression.

Bringing psychological awareness to their genealogical quest can help family historians better answer their question “who do I think you were?” as they examine the historical records, consider their families’ geographical areas, and explore social and local history. What family historians uncover can be shared with living family, which in turn can inform the health professionals we visit. Psychological insight can give individuals new opportunities to thrive and pass on a healthier psychological legacy.

Read more on the Genealogy website here.

Genealogy is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted to the analysis of genealogical narratives. All reviewers praised this article’s originality, interest, and significant contribution to family history and genealogy.

To read more about the impact of attachment and trauma on our ancestors go here.

To buy a print copy, visit my shop here.

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