RootsPBS recently aired its second season of “Finding Your Roots,” which is nominated for an NAACP Image Award, where Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. works with a team of genealogists to trace ancestral history. This season uncovered family secrets from celebrities like Angela Bassett, Derek Jeter, Anderson Cooper and Nas.

Why should people connect with their family’s roots? The Boston Globe explained this best in its review of the show: “Gates shows us how much gets lost when we don’t talk about the past.” Knowing your past helps to shape your present, and learning about your own history is a major part of understanding who you are. But why is it really that important to learn about your roots?

Medical History

Many medical conditions and life-threatening diseases are hereditary. Knowing your family’s medical history can alert you to potential risks that could be passed down to you or your children.

Sense of Identity and Cultural Heritage

Knowing who you are, who your ancestors are and where you came from can give you a sense of identity in this vast world. You can find out if your family belongs to a particular faith and why, or discover where a family name came from. Learning your family history is a vital part of understanding yourself. And during your search you might confirm something you always wondered about, or reveal something you never knew.

Highlights and History

There are those family members who swear up and down that you’re related to someone famous, but have no way of actually proving this to you. With genealogy, you can confirm if you really are linked to someone famous. It also helps you gain an understanding of a relative’s involvement in a historical movement, and how that movement has impacted your life and society as a whole.

Preserve Family History

Creating and building a family tree lets you leave a legacy for your children or future kin. Precious family memories that could be lost forever can now be kept alive from generation and generation.

Genealogy is history on a personal level. And while finding your roots can mean different things to different people, it’s important and not as hard as you think. Ancestry.com is the biggest name in online genealogy, but there are many other services out there to help you trace your family history.

And if you want to get inspired to search for your family’s history, you can catch the most current season of “Finding Your Roots” streaming on Amazon Instant Video.