Family History/Genealogy what's the difference?

Family History is exactly that, the story of a family through history.

Family historians want to know WHO their ancestors were, WHERE, WHEN and HOW they lived, WHAT they did and WHY they did it. They look a name on their family tree and wonder what that person was like, were they respected, was he/she an ordinary person or someone special. If a convict, what was their crime, but more importantly, why did they turn to crime? After their time in jail was up, did they live a lawful life? How? With whom? We're a nosy lot!

Why do we do this? For most of us, it is a desire to know where we came from; how we came to be the person that we are. We want to know the people who passed on to us their genes, appearance, personality and values. If we know where we have come from, we know better where we are going.

What is the difference between Genealogy and Family History?

Genealogy is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “A line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor.”  Traditionally Genealogists use vital records and sound documentary evidence to trace back from a single individual to their earliest recorded ancestor in a direct line.  The usual recording device is a Family Tree. The emphasis is often on how many generations there are on the tree; how high it has grown, and how many branches there are; how wide it is spread. Names and dates are the focus.

Family Historians on the other hand focus on the people, the fruit of the tree.  They are interested in who their ancestors are, where they lived, how they lived and why they made their life choices.  They are looking for the answers to what has made us the people we are today.  It is the driving force behind “Who do you think you are?”  

Trees are not the predominant interest, it’s the fruit on the tree that’s important. 

Neither of these approaches can stand alone. Family Historians need to practice good genealogical research.  They need to follow the basic principles of genealogy in order to find the fruit and examine it.  Family History brings another dimension to genealogy. It enriches it.

As we set off in a search of the family members who lived in the past, we need to turn first to the Basic Principles of Genealogical Research. Along the way, we can take pride in our ancestors’ achievements and ensure that those who come after us know their heritage and why we, as a family, are the way we are.




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