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Family GenerationsWhat is Genealogy? Well, there truly is no simple answer. In the modern era it has morphed into several definitions, ranging from: a record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person, family, or group; the study of family ancestries and histories; or the descent from an original form or progenitor; lineage; ancestry. The word Genealogy is Greek in origin meaning the science or study of generations or family. Genealogy can be used for many things, from recording one’s personal history to discovering where you ancestors came and how they lived. Genealogists use a variety of tools that they have at their disposal to aide them in their pursuit of their family’s history. The often publish or display the results in chart forms or written as narratives.

Pursuing your family history and origins can be fun, but also a challenge and depending upon your motivation as to why you are searching information may be simple to come by or you may have to search for years and years for even the smallest tidbit of information on a family member. Many desire to make their mark in their family’s history in the larger historical picture and have a sense of responsibility to preserve the past for future generations and some even have a sense of self-satisfaction in accurate storytelling. Whatever your goal keep a few things in mind, some of your family members didn’t want their history found so it may be difficult to research all that you need to know and know that not all that you may find will be the rose garden you may have pictured.

There are two types of genealogists: the Hobbyist who typically pursue their own ancestry and that of their spouse and the Professional who may also conduct research for others, publish books on the topic, teach, or produce their own databases. The two generally work hand in hand together by developing tools or producing research that the other can use. They both strive for understanding not just the where and when people lived but also what motivated them, their lifestyles, and biographies if available. In their pursuit they often have to have an intimate knowledge of antiquated laws, old political boundaries, migration trends and historical socioeconomic or religious conditions.

Some genealogists specialize in a particular area or group such as a particular surname; a specific clan; a small community; or even famous person. Bloodlines of Salem is a prime example of a specialized family-history group. Another such group would be D.A.R. or S.A.R. that require that you prove your genealogical descent to one of the patriots of the American Revolution. Genealogists and family historians often join family history societies, where novices can learn from more experienced researchers. Such societies may also index records to make them more accessible, and engage in advocacy and other efforts to preserve public records and cemeteries.

The use of the terms "genealogy" and "family history" are often used synonymously, but some offer a slight difference in definition. The Society of Genealogists, while also using the terms interchangeably, describe genealogy as an "Establishment of a Pedigree by extracting evidence, from valid sources, of how one generation is connected to the next" and family history as "A biographical study of a genealogically proven family and of the community and country in which they lived". So, enjoy your quest and adventure in your pursuit of your family’s history.

S Adam Day

This page was last updated: May 09, 2015 by Red Earth, PLP