Genealogy according to the Board for Certification of Genealogists is “the study of families in genetic and historical context. Within that framework, it is the study of the people who compose a family and the relationships among them. At the individual level, it is biography, because we must reconstruct each individual life in order to separate each person’s identity from that of others bearing the same name.” In my view genealogy focuses on facts – indisputable, provable facts.
Family History focuses more on the stories of ones ancestors and families in my view.
There has been an ongoing discussion over the past few years about the difference between genealogy and family history. There are lots of articles and blog posts that one can read. Google it – and you will find many discussions. I’ve read many of them.
It is my view that neither term fits the current state of ancestor research. In fact, the “new” type of researcher is interested in discovering kinships, relationships, and stories, with an ever increasing interest in old photos, old documents, letters and other artifacts. In other words, both “”genealogy and “family history” apply but neither term satisfies.
So why am I writing this blog post anyway?
For the past four months I have been conducting an experiment. After over ten years of quite active research to find my ancestors and their stories, I decided that maybe I should start finding out what “real” genealogists do, and how they might be able to offer some insights so that I could research better and find out even more about my ancestors.
I specifically did not hire anyone to assist me nor did I endeavor to meet anyone in person – on purpose.
You see I did all my research of genealogists via Social Media, as well as the writings in their blogs. I purposely did not read any of their books nor did I call them on the telephone, or did I meet any of them in person. Yes – this was a deliberate attempt to use ONLY technology to educate myself and to make new connections.
Why did I do it this way? Because I am a “new” 21st Century researcher of my ancestry.
So what has this experiment taught me?
- Most genealogy types are pretty nice and strive to be helpful.
- Some of the more academic types are difficult to deal with, and stubborn.
- The researching world is changing at light speed and most of the genealogy world has little clue as to how to serve the “new” researcher.
- The “new” researcher uses advanced technological tools to perform research and to connect with other people. They do not necessarily want to go to courthouses.
- The “new” researcher does not want to get bogged down with Genealogical Proof Standards as well as 300 word source citations. They understand that citations are important but these rules and guidelines need to be revisited because of the increasing amount of online databases.
- “New” researchers want to be worked with, not lectured to. This is where Social Media and other connecting tools can be very valuable.
- In researching what it takes to be a professional or certified genealogist – yikes – I don’t have the time for that, or the inclination.
So, no – I don’t want to be a genealogist – but I would like to continue effectively researching my ancestry.
And I want to have fun doing it.