Who Are Your Ancestors?

Are Your Uncles and Cousins Ancestors? Who Are Our Ancestors?

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I was fortunate to grow up in a home where we would sit around the dining room, and my mother would tell us stories about our ancestors. My mother was into genealogy and always learned new stories about our ancestors. One question that came up was, who are our ancestors?

Uncles and cousins are considered relatives and not ancestors. An ancestor is a person we are related to who lived before us. An ancestor is someone that you are directly related to as a great-grandfather and so on. It is someone who lived before us, usually a long time ago. Because our ancestors lived such a long time ago, there are many things we can learn from them.

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Are Your Uncles and Cousins Ancestors? Who Are Our Ancestors?

An uncle or cousin is not considered an ancestor, but it is a relative. Family trees look at the parent-to-child relationship, such as your great-grandparents as the people you are directly related to on your family tree. Other relatives on the family tree are considered branches of the tree and not direct descendants.

In some cultures, the definition of an ancestor can be confusing. For example, in Vietnam, they consider almost anyone they are related to – even a distant uncle or cousin- a relative. They may also consider very distant relatives as ancestors.

But the Oxford Dictionary definition helps to clear this up as they define an ancestor as:

“a person, typically one more remote than a grandparent, from whom one is descended.”

Oxford Languages

According to this definition, an ancestor is also known as a forefather, fore-elder, and forebearer. The definition is clear – an ancestor is someone you are descended from. So an Uncle or Cousin is not an ancestor but a relative.

Cambridge Dictionary defines an ancestor as:

“A person related to you who lived a long time ago.”

Cambridge Dictionary

This is where it can get confusing as a great uncle or cousin you are related to, but they would not be a direct ancestor but an indirect ancestor.

If we look at these definitions, grandparents, uncles, or cousins are your relatives, but your great-grandparents are your ancestors. For most people, their parents and grandparents are alive during some part of their lifetime, whereas great-grandparents are not. This is why the definition of an ancestor also states “a person who lived a long time ago.”

Under inheritance law, an ancestor is someone from who you can inherit an estate. This is slightly different than the Oxford dictionary, as a child can inherit an estate from a parent, uncle, or even a sibling or anyone else.

Interestingly, this legal definition is that a child related by blood does not automatically have the right to inherit property under the rules of intestacy. If that child has been adopted out of the family, this does not give them a legal right of inheritance, whereas a child that has been adopted into the family does.

When looking at ancestors, if you are adopted or have adopted ancestors, it can get a bit confusing. This is why many adopted individuals may have two family trees. One is for their adopted family and one is for their birth family.

If you are adopted, having two family trees is not a requirement. It is up to the individual, but once you are adopted into a family, your adopted family’s ancestors are your ancestors.

What Things Can We Learn From Our Ancestors?

Now that we understand a bit about our ancestors, there are many important things that we can learn from our ancestors. This is why it is so important that we understand where we are from and who went before us.

When I was in college, I took master-level classes in anthropology. The one thing you learned about Anthropology is that it is all about studying other civilizations’ cultures. Universally in almost all cultures’ ancestors are significant.

Here are some of the important things we can learn from our ancestors:

Where We Are From

Our ancestors can help show us where we are. This is one reason why DNA genetic testing has been so popular. People want to know their genetic makeup and where they are from.


There will be biological traits that we will have that are passed down between generations. Whether you are short or tall, have blonde hair and blue eyes, or have black hair and brown eyes – all of these biological traits have been passed down between generations.

Family Is Important

Our ancestors taught us that family is important. I have been blessed to have a family who believes that our ancestors are important.

My father has a cousin who spent most of his life learning about his ancestors and recording their stories. The records he has left for us are now invaluable.

Even if your ancestors did not leave many records, you could try to piece together what their life was like when they lived.

Use What You Can

For most of us, our ancestors were farmers or laborers. They did not live in a society with as much waste as we have today. Our ancestors teach us to make due and appreciate what we have,

Community matters

Our ancestors also teach us that community matters. Most of them live in a small community where they have to learn to depend on each other, sometimes for their very survival.

We live in a digital world that sometimes can feel isolated. We can learn from our ancestors the importance of building our community, support, and even a digital one.

Leave A Legacy

Our ancestors can also teach us it is essential to leave a legacy to those who come after us. We can do this throughout our lives and write down some of our life experiences to leave for those who go after us.

Get Out In Nature

Most of our ancestors were in touch with nature; they lived out in nature. They depended on nature. Especially if they were farmers, nature meant a lot to them. We can learn from our ancestors how vital nature is.

Skills and Education Matter

Looking at our ancestors’ lives, we realize that skills and education matter. Many of our ancestors did not have the opportunities to get the skills and education we have today. I am constantly amazed by how much you can learn on YouTube without going to school. We have opportunities that our ancestors never had.

Things To Discover About Your Ancestors

Getting to know all your ancestors is a great discovery. As you discover about them, you can start to piece together a picture of their lives. This, in turn, will help you to understand your life.

Here are some things that you can discover about your ancestors

Discover where they were born, married, and died

\You can learn about your ancestors, from where they were born, where they lived, and where they died. If you don’t have any information about your family, there’s a lot that you could put together through the records, which are now available online.

We recommend you consider using the free tool of FamilySearch or a paid tool such as Ancestry. If you do not have family records, both sites have online records.

Learn where they went to Church or worshiped

Many of the records you will find online will be church or religious records. So you will be able to discover where they went to church by where they were christened, or to other documents.


Many of the records list a person’s occupation. According to what occupation they put down, this could give you a lot of insight into their lives. If it says they were a farmer, you assume they lived on a farm.

If it says they were a blacksmith, they may have worked in the city more than likely. So you can learn a lot about your ancestors according to what was put down by their occupation.

Lands and Ownership

Depending on your ancestors’ country, you may find information on the property they once owned or the land they lived and worked on as a farmer or rancher.

Immigration Records

You can also discover a lot through immigration records. You may find your ancestors’ routes as they immigrated to another country or land.

One of the reasons we love ancestry or family history travel so much is that it allows us to understand more about our ancestors and their lives. As you study and learn about your ancestors, you will also understand more about yourself and your family.

At A Bus On A Dusty Road, we talk about travel, life, and ex-pat living. We are all about “Living Life As A Global Citizen.” We explore social, cultural, and economic issues and travel.

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Why Is Ancestry Travel The New and Exciting Travel Trend?

Ancestry travel is a new and exciting way to travel as it helps you discover your family history. The ancestry travel trend has been driven in part by at-home DNA testing, people wanting to travel with meaning, and a new perspective about life. Ancestry travels helps you feel a connection with the place you are traveling and your also ancestors.

You can read more at Why Ancestry Travel is The New and Exciting Travel Trend by clicking here.

Do Brothers And Sisters Have The Exact Same DNA?

On average, brothers and sisters only share about 50% of the same DNA. When the sperm and eggs engage to form a human embryo, reshuffling or genetic recombination takes place. Simply, you can inherit different DNA from your mother and your father, but it is not always equally split as 50-50.

You can discover more by reading Do Brothers And Sisters Have The Exact Same DNA? by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel
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