F is for Family History or Genealogy? #atozchallenge #familyhistory

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.


The genealogist constructs a pedigree

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?


The family historian wants to know where the individuals lived


So which are you, family historian or genealogist? And which would you rather be?


3 comments on “F is for Family History or Genealogy? #atozchallenge #familyhistory

  1. kristin says:

    I am a family historian. I have a blog where I talk about my ancestors and their lives. The stories are not only interesting but have led me to some interesting discoveries.

  2. My church is big on family first and as such, we do a lot of family history work. We used to call it genealogy and it has since been renamed as ‘family history’. I do prefer family history, and I find it extremely stimulating and worthwhile 🙂

    Teaching English with Mr. Duncan
    A-Z of hotels

  3. Great post. In my ancestry.com account I would say I am more a genealogist but I did breakout my dad’s WWII history in a blog so I guess that would be more family historian. Another area I would like to do more than connect the family is my great grandparent had a small hotel/boarding house in the 1920’s hayday of Atlantic City NJ so when I watch the television show Boardwalk Empire, I think my ancestors were living in Atlantic City during that crazy time period.

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