Genealogy or Family History?

Genealogy or Family History?

Do you know the difference between genealogy and family history?

When you are a beginning genealogist; taking those first tentative steps in researching your ancestry, it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between them.

The terms genealogy and family history refer to two separate but equally significant approaches to exploring your roots. The fundamental difference between the two methods lies in the sources of information used to conduct the research. These sources consist of primary, secondary, and tertiary information.

The study of Genealogy refers to the fact based inquiry into your ancestry. It is the concrete process of searching for your genetic origins by gathering and documenting the names, dates and locations of your predecessors. Genealogy requires adherence to the precise information presented within public record to provide irrefutable evidence of your lineage.

A genealogist’s tools are the source materials such as Statutory Index Records for marriages, births, deaths, and baptisms, although at times family bibles and Census Records can be primary sources. To correctly conduct genealogy research you would want to use only primary source information, which means using any record showing a first hand account of an event and containing the signature of a witness.

Family History refers to the study of the unique details and personal events in your ancestor’s lives; it is their story as told by you, their descendant. Family history research fleshes out the full account that gives life and character to your family tree by including the private details of your generations past; these being the fine points of lives lived that are not found solely within public records. A family historian can use secondary and even tertiary information such as, old photographs, diaries, letters and family lore.

That is not to say that you can not use primary sources for family history research. The study of family history often requires the need to read between the lines of public documents and dig a little deeper to find the tale that lies within. Some truly wonderful opportunities for family history stories are hidden in genealogical data.

Using a fantastic clue found in an Old Parish Record, I will show you how the two can work together.

Genealogy Data + the Family Historian = A Great Story

OPR Extract:

Parish of Carstairs, County of Lanark. Dated May 2nd. 1790

“May 2nd, this day Alexander Gibson in Longflush and Christian Weir had a daughter {Begot in Fornication}. Baptized, Named Janet Gibson.”

The Family History Element

This baptismal record from Scotland 1790, tells us that the child being baptized was “begot in fornication”. Even so, both father and mother were listed in the parish record.

Sensing a good family history story I researched what the term “Begot in Fornication” would have meant to the lives of these individuals in 1700’s Scotland.

What I found was that, the community was very narrow-minded in those days, quick to bring transgressors before the sessions. In this case the father of the child came forward and admitted his liabilities. Due to this he was listed in the record even though he did not marry the mother. The parents of the child being from “good church going families” would have been brought to task publicly and admonished for their sin, this over a period of three Sundays at normal services. Having then been deemed publicly humiliated they would be, so to speak, brought back into the fold and the child baptized.

The short and sweet answer to the question; do you know the difference between genealogy and family history is…

You are a genealogist when: you are searching for and documenting records from primary sources and your concern is for factual, proven accounts of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

You are a family historian when: you are using those facts in addition to reported events that although probable may not be substantiated by first hand account in the available records; for the purpose of telling the story of your family’s unique and very personal past.

No matter what your method, don’t be surprised if when rediscovering their lives’, you gain a better understanding of your own.

Source by Ramona Hartley