Are you a family historian or a genealogist? Personally I call myself a family historian, although I undertake genealogical research as part of my family history. I am aware that the meaning of ‘genealogy’ varies in different parts of the world.
To me, genealogy is creating a pedigree, joining individuals together and establishing relationships between them. It is, quite literally ‘gene ology’. It is possible to do genealogy without being a family historian but a family historian must also be a genealogist.
A family historian creates the underlying pedigree but then looks beyond the names and relationships to study the national, local and social historical context that helps us to understand the lives of those individuals. A family historian wants to know what was happening in the town or village where their family lived. They aim to find out what their ancestor may have eaten or worn and what their home might have been like. They will study the occupations of their ancestors so they know what tools those ancestors would have used, what uniform they may have worn and what processes that form of employment could have involved. If individuals moved, then the family historian might look at possible route ways and motivations for that change of location. They will consider national events that those ancestors lived through and how these may have impacted on their lives. To me it is the family history, rather than the genealogy, that is the real appeal. What use is a list of names and dates when you have no conception of the lives that these people led?
So which are you, family historian or genealogist? And which would you rather be?