Friday, August 17, 2007

Genealogist or Family Historian?

Several genea-bloggers have pondered the definitions of "genealogist" and "family historian" in recent posts. I was on vacation when the issue first arose in James M. Beidler's genealogy column in the Lebanon (PA) Daily News. My fellow genea-bloggers have said it better than I could. If you haven't read their posts, please do so at:

1) Dick Eastman at Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter - Should we call it Genealogy or Family History - read the many comments here.

2) Schelly Talalay Dardashti at Tracing the Tribe blog - Are We Family Historians or Genealogists?

3) Chris Dunham at The Genealogue blog - Genealogy vs. Family History.

4) Jasia at the Creative Gene blog -- Genealogist vs. Family Historian. Who Are You?

5) footnoteMaven at the footnoteMaven blog -- Split Personality?

There may be more, and I will update this post when I find them. This is a very important topic that each researcher struggles with at one time or another.

There are significant comments on Chris' post concerning adoption and "biological parents" that should be reviewed by all people with that family situation.

So what do I consider myself? By the standards of my fellow genea-bloggers, I am a "Family Historian" that pursues genealogy research.

UPDATED 17 August 9:50 PM:

Wikipedia has excellent definitions and description of Genealogy and Family History. The best summary of Family History is:

"While genealogy is the convenient label for the field, family history is the over-arching term, since genealogy in the strict sense is only concerned with tracing unified lineages. Other sectors of family history, such as one-name studies, may pay only rudimentary attention to lineages, or may emphasize biography rather than vital data. Most genealogical societies in Britain are united in the Federation of Family History Societies.

"Forms of family-history research include:
genealogy (tracing a living person's pedigree back into time from the present, or an historic person's descendancy to the present, using archival records)
genetic genealogy (discovering relationships by comparing the DNA of living individuals);
one-name studies (an investigation of all persons with a common surname)
one-place studies (population histories including the German de:Ortsfamilienbuch)
* heraldic and peerage studies (inquiries into the legal right of persons to bear arms or claim noble status)
clan studies (inquiries into groups with a shared patrilineal or matrilineal connection to a tribal chieftain and his servants, although they may not be related by blood and may not share the same surname)
* family social and economic history (telling the story of a family's place in society or economic achievements using oral and written records, or inferring information about lives from wider historical sources; this subject is treated below)

"Unlike related forms of micro-history, such as corporate histories or local studies, family history research begins with only an approximate notion of the extent of the entity - the extended family - and never fully defines it, since the early origins of all families become invisible in prehistorical times. DNA genealogy offers some hope of moving this boundary further back into time."

At least no one has claimed to be a prosopographer, although at least some genealogists/family historians are! Go look it up!

I guess I can also claim to be a one-name student... but not a clanner.

Call me anything you want, just don't call me late for dinner.

UPDATED, 8/21, 8 PM: Jasia of the Creative Gene blog and Schelly Talalay Dardashti of the Tracing the Tribe blog were on the DearMYRTLE Podcast dated 21 August. The three of them discussed this issue, and also talked a bit about genealogy blogging. If you haven't heard it, treat yourself to a wonderful discussion by thre who are skilled in the arts - of genealogy, blogging and talking!

1 comment:

Becky Wiseman said...

Prosopographer? Gee Randy, just what we need, another term we can't spell or pronounce! ;-)