In helping patrons with family research, I have found myself using the terms genealogy and family history interchangeably. I began to wonder whether or not the terms were synonymous. What I found is, although they overlap, there is indeed a difference between genealogy and family history.
|Genealogy Pedigree Chart|
By definition, genealogy is a study of family ancestors with pertinent data such as birth, marriage and death dates. Genealogy is specifically concerned with tracing family lineages and determining kinship. For example, a genealogical record may be needed for certain legal situations that deal with inheritance, and it is most definitely required proof for membership in societies like the Daughters of the American Revolution. A genealogy researcher will begin by recording parents’ full names and then enter facts about birth, marriage and death dates. It is helpful to make a simple pedigree chart starting with yourself and work your way backward. For the family history researcher, this record of factual genealogy is the starting point for creating a family narrative.
Family history tells the story of your family and highlights individual biographies, achievements, social standings, economic status, land ownership, medical issues, military history, geographic locations, children born or adopted into families, and the list goes on. A lot can be learned from family Bibles, diaries, letters and journals, newspaper articles, and from stories or oral histories handed down through generations. Also, family history researchers have so many digital records becoming available through websites like Ancestry.com and Newspaper Archive. Creating family history narratives by learning more about our ancestor’s likes, dislikes, skills, documenting anecdotal stories, and examining their daily lives can be fascinating.
To sum it up, genealogy is mainly a pedigree chart. Once you work your way back to your 5th great grandparents, you will have 128 people on your chart! If creating a family history is your ultimate goal, genealogy is one tool to achieving that goal. Genealogy can be compared to the trunk and branches of a tree, but a rich family history truly gives the tree its unique color, fruit, leaves, and perhaps will reveal a few nuts!