Genealogic research is not just looking for ancestors. The professional genealogist works with a research goal in mind, and we will discuss the different work plans for personal genealogy.
May be the most common objective is building a person’s family tree or genealogical tree (arbol de costados). This is done by number of generations, for example research could target all ancestors until third, fourth or fifth generation (i.e. all grandparents, all great-grandparents, etc.). Some people satisfy their genealogic needs by completing the information about their great-grandparents, the 4th generation (estudio de ocho cuarteles), but others want to continue research to complete the information about their 7th great-grandparents, the 10th generation (estudio de 512 cuarteles).
Study of one Line
Instead of researching all ancestors, a different approach includes concentrating on a specific line of descent, for example:
Agnatic lineage: it is the male descent from father to sons (agnaticio puro, linaje directo o de varonia). Traditionally is the better documented this descent was used to inherit through the state planning of the old times (mayorazgo in Spain or morgado in Portugal). The male descent line that for centuries has been tracked with paper documents can be researched nowadays with a simple DNA test now in a test known as the Y-DNA test.
Cognatic lineage: it is the opposite of the previous one and shows the matrilineal ancestors including your mother, her mother, and so forth, up the direct female line (linaje de cognación). This type of genealogic research has not been very used in the past but it is starting to become trendy as it can also be researched with a DNA test known as the mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA).
Surname or Property line: Your female ancestors in your family tree increase exponentially each time you move back one generation. You have 2 surnames from your grandmothers, 4 from your great-grandmothers, and so forth. Any of these “internal lines” can be selected for detailed research. When we do “surname” research sometimes in Spain we find faked agnatic lineage (linaje agnaticio fingido) where the female imposes to the family descent the use of her surname and her heraldry instead of the male line. We see this as a result some property inheritance rules (mayorazgo) when the real estate did not move through the male line.
Finally, another different approach focuses the genealogist in the family relationship between two different individuals. The purpose is to find out a descent line from a relevant individual in the past to one of his descendants, independently of the line (may jump from male to female line on each generation). This type of research is used when someone has to prove who has “greater right” to a vacant nobility title or an inheritance. It is also used for fun to establish a descent line from the royal house to a current individual.
All the options are there, pick your preference and jump on the genealogy world. It is a beautiful journey and you will not be disappointed.