Digital Services, History, Research

Fundamentals of Genealogy

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first official post on the topic of genealogy. I thought we could begin exploring this topic by examining some fundamentals of genealogical research.

Many think genealogy and family history are interchangeable terms and for the most part they are, but there is a subtle difference. I provided common definitions of each word to demonstrate this objective, but often unnoticed, distinction.

Genealogy – a study of family ancestors with pertinent data such as birth, marriage and death dates.

Family history – an in-depth study of a family lineage with greater emphasis and clarification of each ancestor’s life story.

This blog provides more in-depth information about these two terms and their importance when conducting research on your ancestry.

When I started my journey on how to research my genealogy, it was important to be able to discern what is true, what might be true, and what is false. This is a task every family historian attempts to accomplish when compiling their research. When analyzing family history, it is best to corroborate that information with documentation. Sometimes there are contradictions or discrepancies between accounts telling different stories. It is best to acknowledge this as opposed to ignoring one in favor of the other. We want to tell the most accurate story of our ancestors.

Here is an assessment of Alex Haley’s famous novel (and eventual television series) Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Mills, Elizabeth S, and Gary B. Mills. “The Genealogist’s Assessment of Alex Haley’s Roots.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly. 72.1 (1984).

Keeping this cautionary tale of “faction” (blending fiction and fact together) in mind, something to learn about is the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). There are several measures that should be taken to ensure the accuracy and credibility of any information found during your research and following these guidelines helps determine its legitimacy.

Citations are important when crafting the story of your ancestry as it provides documentation and evidence of your research. Yes, even that story Great Aunt Edna told you about her grandfather should be cited. Context is key when interpreting and analyzing information and aids future research into your family lineage! Examples of proper citation can be found here. This is an excerpt from:

Mills, Elizabeth S. Evidence!: Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.

I hope you all found this introductory information on genealogy useful on your first steps to discovering your history. We will continue to unravel the layers required for your research in the coming weeks.

Any personal questions, comments, or requests for assistance can be made to me by email:

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