You may well have asked yourself that question more than once as you have researched your family.
Starting with a definition:
Genealogy – a study of family ancestors with pertinent data such as birth, marriage and death dates, usually using vital records as a source.
Family History – an in-depth study of a family lineage with greater emphasize and clarification of each ancestor’s life story.
Yes, there is a difference between genealogy and family history, but both are dependent to varying degrees on each other. Genealogy, the core of knowing your ancestors can be compared to the trunk of a tree. With a detailed and rich family history with stories on individuals can truly give the tree its color, leaves, flowers and majestic appearance.
Anyone starting in genealogy, they have to start with themselves, the known. Make a record of your birth-marriage dates, places, schools attended, names of spouse(s) and occupations. Next work on your parents. Include their full names, especially your mother’s maiden name or earlier married names. Add birth, marriage and death dates along with locations.
In genealogy, create a pedigree listing or chart with direct ancestors. You are listed first, then your parents, grandparents and do both sets – your father’s parents and mother’s parents. This is where most people start to run into stumbling blocks. You may have only known your father’s mother as Grandma Betty. Now your work begins to learn that grandmother’s full name, birth, death date, etc.
Creating this pedigree chart becomes your jumping off point to explore into the family stories and tales on each individual. Keep in mind, do start with your biological parents, even if you did have step-parents. The other parents can be added later.
A good family history tells a story about an individual or a participate family. Much can be learned by using diaries, journals, newspaper articles, letters or scrapbooks that were created by an ancestor and handed down over the generations. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have such a family treasure saved over the years. Countless paper items were discarded over the decades as individuals died, moved or cleaned out attics.
Learning where an individual or family lived can provide a better understanding of their lives during certain periods of time. If you had ancestors who lived in the rural countryside of York County, Pennsylvania in the 1870s, their lives would surely be different from those living in rural South Carolina in the 1870s during the aftermath of the American Civil War.
Learning more about the each family ancestor; their names, birth-marriage-death dates, and hometowns is genealogy. Then, discovering their likes, dislikes, adventures, interests, skills and achievements is fascinating. Family history in a sense lets you better know who your ancestor was by learning their story. You could be surprised how similar you could be in personality traits or skills to family members you never met.