During the Middle Ages, monks began to record regal pedigrees. As property became involved, genealogy became closely tied with rank and the inheritance of wealth and land, tax collection, and lawsuits. Also during this period, as serfdom gave way to villenage, it became important to record the descent of more of the common people. This practice increased in the 1500s, with the rise of mercantilism and the middle classes and the emphasis on individual religion generated by the Reformation.
The history of genealogy records a regrettable episode when family research became a State mandate. Under the leadership of Hitler and the Third Reich, German citizens were forced to prove their Aryan origins. Family heritage had to be traced back 4 to generations. Without this documentation, citizens could not receive working papers and they could be subject to imprisonment. The pedigree was called the Ahnenspass.
One website states: The study of genealogy can help people to better understand their heritage, can strengthen family ties, and may, in some cases, help to reduce racism by demonstrating common ancestry.
Many angry adoptees complain that they had their "heritage stolen from them". The importance of studying your past in this day and age is not to prove a royal lineage or prove you're origins to a dictator but it is to see where you have come from so you can know what your family did to get where they are.
So what has been stolen? Just the fact that a great grandmother may have come from Russia and your great great grandfather was a Polish Jew?
How does that change who you are? How does it affect who you are with your family? Will you now learn Russian or read the Talmud?
I found out I had some French in me... (i can't stand the French, so it was quite a shock and a shame actually... lol). It's interesting to know, however, and I'm not saying you shouldn't be curious....but why is it SUCH a major point with them? I would really like to know what they think they are missing out on....