Genealogy, i.e. study of descent, is the science conducting research into family history. Part of this is family tree research. As a classic auxiliary of history that embraces the entire society, genealogy is based on descent between generations and examines family relationships.
Utilization of genealogical knowledge dates back beyond memory. Finding and demonstrating alleged – or real – ancestors has always been important. Genealogy developed with society itself, and it adapted to changing classes and social strata. As a tool of identifying heirs many times – especially during feudalism – it had special importance. Relying upon genealogy is also vital in estate and local history research. Beyond the classic understanding of family tree research we can talk about historical, medical and ethnographic approach as well. Interest in genealogy, after a setback in recent decades, is on the rise, and is rather widespread in our days.
In the beginning people searched after the descent of gods; later the leaders and rulers of various peoples traced back their ancestry to religion and mythology. Nobles of the ancient Greeks often traced their descent back to heroes, to one of the protagonists of the Trojan war. New families and personalities rising to prominence from time to time endeavoured to create an ancestry worthy of the descent of the traditional ruling class.
The Romans attributed various virtues of their ancestors to the whole clan. Their epitaphs include numerous genealogical data. Adoption was much characteristic of ancient Roman family relations. The adoptees took over the ancestors of the adopters. Common record of the real descendants and adopted persons was widespread. We can consider the Roman scala (stemma) as the ancestor of the tables of descent; it was cruciform with the person under survey in the middle. By Germanic peoples, as opposed to Romans, a genealogy based on blood-relationship played a central role.
Development of genealogy started in various countries of Europe during the renaissance. As from the 14th century genealogical works began to be published – in the beginning mostly in Latin.
Genealogy at the outset concentrated on royal houses, later on the aristocracy, nobility – even bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia.
There is a multitude of genealogical data about Hungarian families and their family ties in Middle-Age documents; but ancestral trees, the so-called illustrated genealogies characteristic of Hungarian aristocratic courts appear only in the first half of the 17th century. The Hungarian Heraldic and Genealogical Society was founded in Hungary in 1883.
A strong repression of family tree research commenced after the Second World War. Stiff repudiation of genealogy became relaxed as from the 1970s. In 1983 the Hungarian Heraldic and Genealogical Society was successfully refounded, and nowadays genealogy flourishes in Hungary as well as anywhere else in the world.