Aug 29, 2022

Genealogy vs Family History

Genealogy or Family Historian; these words, while used interchangeably, they are so different to some.

Genealogy is defined as the gathering of names, dates and locations of our families. It is documented with sources such as birth/marriage/death records, census and wills. As Joe Friday used to say, “Just the facts. Nothing but the facts.” Researchers use this information to fill out pedigrees and family group sheets and try to fill in any missing family member.

Family History is all of the above but with an additional twist. Why was our ancestors’ given his particular name? Why did they live where they did; why did they migrate to another country? Answering these questions provides a little history behind our ancestors’ lives. As genealogists, we find the basic facts. As we research a little deeper, we become historians. The researcher wants more stories about their ancestry. That is Family History: answering the questions of “Why” and “How?”

Sources we used for birth/marriage/death develop as we read journals, land deeds, letters, newspapers and histories of the places our ancestors’ resided in. Photographs are studied to see their time periods, any familiar resemblances, and the type of dress or uniform they may have worn.

We desire to know more than the basic facts and research accordingly. Interviewing relatives and friends who knew about the family is a great tool.

A lot of county sites have histories of their early pioneers. Learning the occupations may even be listed on that census you researched earlier when looking for that birth or marriage. Some researchers are elated to learn they descended from someone “famous” or a “rich” ancestor. When it comes down to it, we are all happy with all the history we can find.

Genealogist? Family Historian? No matter what we call ourselves, we are first calling ourselves genealogists as we are looking for the same basic information; then later we become family historians, researching a little deeper. We hope to discover what made them like they were and, maybe, in the process learn something about ourselves.

What do you consider yourself to be? Genealogist or Family Historian? Let me know your opinion! (Use the comments section below this article.)

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