Other Articles by Chris Walsh

No Paradigm

This article displays something about Chris Walsh's attitude to psychotherapy.

Therapeutic Alliance

The Therapeutic Alliance with Those Having Both Substance Abuse & Major Mental Illness.

Mindfulness In Individual Cognitive Therapy

Taking advantage of the recent acceptance of mindfulness meditation by cognitive therapists, Chris presented this paper to the 28th National Conference for the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy in April 2005.

Chris's Mindfulness Site

Carmen's Dream

A case study integrating contellation work with ongoing therapy.


Bert Hellinger

Constellations for Organisations

Print this Page

Genealogy & Constellations


Unfortunately most families have members who are not thriving. Also most families have seemingly irreconcilable tensions between some members. When we try to understand these issues we tend to assign blame. However, it may not be anyone’s fault. The roots of many family problems can be traced back to earlier generations. They may be caused by events such as migrations, early deaths or adoptions. These issues can be clarified by genealogical research and they can be addressed in family constellation workshops.
Family constellations and genealogy have a lot in common. They both look at family history and help make clear how the past events effect the present. They both help us to become aware of how we all belong to a much bigger family story, and they can both be antidotes to the sense of alienation and dislocation that haunts many of us in modern society.

What is Genealogy?

Genealogy is the study of family history extending back over generations. Genealogy is a term deriving from the Greek words for "genos", meaning family and "logos", being knowledge or theory. Ironically, considering this age of therapy and individualism, we seem to feel as if we know little about ourselves. It is as if some time in the past something essential was lost. This is how many of us feel before we start searching. In genealogy, we may discover famous ancestors. More importantly, we can discover the heroic in the so-called ordinary lives of our ancestors. The personal is powerful. After discovering that his ancestors were agricultural labourers, a prominent Victorian judge went quiet for a moment before declaring: "Wouldn’t they be proud of me!"

We also discover the place of our family in relation to momentous historical events, such as the Second World War. We can see how our families are caught up in the eddies and currents of the broader historical tide. In this way, history becomes personal and therefore compelling. So, through genealogy we find our family’s place in the world, as well as finding our own place in our own family .


How Popular Is Genealogy?

Genealogy has become one of the world’s top 10 hobbies on a list topped by sex and music. Some say its present popularity was first triggered by the television mini-series of Alex Haley’s Roots, which interestingly is about African Americans tracing their ancestry back to the slaves and beyond to their tribal roots in Western Africa. It is especially popular in Australia and the USA , two nations founded on mass migration, and displacement of the local indigenous cultures.

Research in the US shows that interest in genealogy has historically spiked after large-scale social and political disruption, such as the Civil War and the Depression. Maybe we are now suspended in permanent rupture.


Why Is Genealogy So Popular?

Historians and sociologists often assert we now live in a period of postmodern malaise, characterized by a pervasive sense of alienation, loss, loneliness and guilt. Lives are complex and families are fragmented. We no longer grow up in the same village as our forebears or with the aunts and grandmothers who are custodians of family memory. Most of us no longer meet our extended family and friends every Sunday at the local church, or even at the local pub. We marry outside religious and ethnic groupings. We no longer have well defined morals that we all agree to live by, as our society becomes more and more pluralistic, with different cultures religions and belief systems living side by side.

The same sense of dislocation is extending into the workplace as well. Both private companies and government departments now go through endless cycles of restructuring, with the inevitable carnage of enforced redundanci