Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Genealogy vs. Family History

I think one of the first things to discuss before going any further is the difference between the terms "genealogy" and "family history." The two terms are often used as one in the same, but they are a little different. I did a quick "Google" search and have found a couple of good definitions and explainations to share.

The first one is found on the website about.com genealogy in their "genealogy tip of the day" section:

"While is common for people to use the terms 'genealogy' and 'family history' interchangeably, they actually have a subtle but different meaning. Genealogy, the study of ancestry and descent, refers more to the actual search for ancestors, while family history, the narrative of the events in your ancestors' lives, denotes the telling of your family's story. Family history is genealogy come alive.
To experience the difference between genealogy and family history, place yourself in the world of an ancestor. For the best experience, select one for which you only have a few dull, dry facts such as birth date, hometown, marriage, children and burial location. Then try to learn the circumstances of his/her life - what he did to put food on the table, how he spent his leisure time, his position in the town or community, the cost of living in effect at the time, the types of food he ate, the clothes he wore, diseases which were prevalent for the time period, the traditions he followed...
To dig up the answers to these questions, you can turn to a variety of historical resources: timelines, social histories, community histories, newspaper accounts, biographies, etc. The records which gave you the names and dates for your ancestors are also a source for potential clues. Census records may be able to tell you about your ancestor's neighborhood, occupations, educational background, and financial situation. Wills may provide insight into your ancestor's feelings, friends, and possessions. Immigration and naturalization records may offer a look at your ancestor's motivations for moving to a new country.
In your quest to learn more about where you came from, don't limit yourself to the 'genealogy' search. Flesh out the lives of your ancestors, tell the stories of your living family members, and bring your family history to life."

Another great site I found was from one of the Open University website pages:
This site gives a really good illustration of how the two terms, "genealogy" and "family history" are used in a practical way by using examples and explainations.

I hope that this brief exploration of the differences between "genealogy" and "family history" will be helpful and maybe give a better understanding that there is a difference after all.

I am always open to questions and comments, so please feel free to use the comments section.

Until next time -
Carolyn of MGS

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