Family History or Genealogy?
Would you more likely consider yourself a genealogist or a family historian?
Do you think it matters?
I took a genealogy class back in college. As a young girl I was intrigued by a big, dusty book in my Grandpa Hall's office that was filled with pedigree charts, so when I discovered room in my class schedule for 2 credits, I signed up hoping for an easy A. I was a freshman and it was 1983. Genealogy meant research and back then, research meant microfiche because this was still years before The Internet would become our biggest ally. There were no photos and not stories, unless you had direct access to them. Anyway, what I remember about this course now, was it was more involved than I had imagined and I didn't enjoy it as I thought I would. I was 18 years old, trying to get a grip on university life and utterly overwhelmed by Chem 105. Fast forward 10 years and I'm a brand new mom, finding myself totally drawn to this emerging hobby called scrapbooking. It's not genealogy by a long shot, but it has a familiar spirit about it and it's fun and it inspires me to document my life and the stories of my little family. Fast forward another 10 years and I'm now working as the editor for Simple Scrapbook magazine, when digital photography and The Internet are beginning to really change our approach and open up our options. Fast forward to today. I've got dozens of scrapbooks, lots of technology, helpful apps and access to social media for connecting and sharing. I'm preparing to teach at RootsTech, and yet I still feel kind of intimidated by this idea of genealogy! Silly maybe, but I think for me, it boils down to semantics. Genealogy sounds difficult and time consuming and likely to require those research skills I failed to develop as a freshman. Family history on the other hand sounds like photos and stories and doing more of what I already know how to do. The semantics wouldn't have bothered me at all except that when I was writing my *almost book* I couldn't shake that annoying voice in my head, constantly telling me I shouldn't be writing a book that "real" genealogists might read. Surely, they would know that I am an imposter! I decided to do what any easily distracted, doubting author does. Ask Google! I opened my browser and typed, "What's the difference between genealogy and family history?" This is what I found. According to this blog post, genealogy as a search term is almost twice as popular as family history. In addition, societies in the U.S. that are dedicated to discovering one's ancestors are generally called genealogical societies. Oh dear! In the U.K. however, the same group of enthusiasts are called family history societies. Maybe I should just move to London?! Actually, what I found most interesting with this blog post, were the dozens of comments and the myriad of opinions, which were shared. It turns out the consensus is that the terms genealogy and family history are pretty much synonymous. This is good. This helps me. But I'm still curious ... are you like me in that you don’t feel as drawn to the research of family names and dates, in the same way that you feel compelled to discover and expose stories? Or are you more inspired by the possibility of a new census report and those shaky leaves in your ancestry.com account? From what I've observed, people tend to one side or the other. One comment said this: Genealogy links charts, while family history links hearts. That makes sense to me, because it describes how I feel about my genealogy after discovering photos and stories that line up with some of the names and dates. I used to struggle to remember the names on my 4-generation pedigree chart. But, as I have become familiar with the stories, these names have become real people that I love and respect. Forgetting them now would be like forgetting my grandparents. Not gonna happen. The more I delve into genealogy, the more I understand the value of added story, and the more I want to help others not only pair their research with photos and stories, but make this collective information more visible in our homes and more accessible to our kids. I'm coming to understand that I do belong, and this is because genealogists never ignore the stories and family historians generally share the verifiable data that pedigree requires, so at our roots (pun intended) we really are one big happy (helping) family.