While its common for people to use the terms 'genealogy' and 'family history' interchangeably, they actually have a subtle but different meaning. Genealogy, the study of ancestry and descent, refers more to the actual search for ancestors, while family history, the narrative of the events in your ancestors' lives, denotes the telling of your family's story. Family history is genealogy come alive.
To experience the difference
between genealogy and family history, place yourself in the world of an
ancestor. For the best experience, select one for which you only have a few
dull, dry facts such as birth date, hometown, marriage, children and burial
location. Then try to learn the circumstances of his/her life - what he did to
put food on the table, how he spent his leisure time, his position in the town
or community, the cost of living in effect at the time, the types of food he
ate, the clothes he wore, diseases which were prevalent for the time period, the
traditions he followed...
To dig up the answers to
these questions, you can turn to a variety of historical resources: timelines,
social histories, community histories, newspaper accounts, biographies, etc. The
records which gave you the names and dates for your ancestors are also a source
for potential clues. Census records may be able to tell you about your
ancestor's neighborhood, occupations, educational background, and financial
situation. Wills may provide insight into your ancestor's feelings, friends, and
possessions. Immigration and naturalization records may offer a look at your
ancestor's motivations for moving to a new country.
In your quest to learn more
about where you came from, don't limit yourself to the 'genealogy' search. Learn all you can about the lives of your ancestors, tell the stories of your living family members,
and bring your family history to life.