In life, all we need is one more set of terms to define, distinguish, memorize, write books about, and then…forget. Perhaps you won’t forget, but I do; that’s why I have to write everything down. Here we go with two more terms: Family History and Genealogy. What’s the difference? Does it really matter? (a really great source) defines Family History as:

the systematic narrative and research of past events relating to a specific family, or specific families.”

Genealogy is defined as:

“…the study and tracing of family pedigrees. This involves the collection of the names of relatives, both living and deceased, and establishing the relationships among them based on primary, secondary and/or circumstantial evidence or documentation, thus building up a cohesive family tree.”

Sounds like genealogy involves a lot more work, but both family history and genealogy involve effort. To better distinguish the differences between genealogy and family history, we’ve summed up the definitions as:

  • Genealogy = Finding date and place records related to ancestors
  • Family History = Getting to know your ancestors through study and research (of journals, articles, etc.)

Genealogy is about collecting the dates, places, and relations. Family History is about the stories, relationships, and lives behind the dates and places.
Family History and Genealogy can be about you. Working on your own journal isn’t genealogy work, per se, but it is definitely family history work (it just happens to be your personal history). Recording video and audio dialogs with your living relatives would be more family history than genealogy work. Adding yourself to your family tree and saving birth and other records is genealogy work about you.

Does the difference between Genealogy and Family History really matter? Whatever you call it, what matters is that your family history and genealogy gets preserved, saved, and done. You’re never really “done” with family history, it’s just a good way to end. Good luck, and let’s get it done!


Genealogy. (2007, October 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:31, October 9, 2007, from

Family history. (2007, October 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:31, October 9, 2007, from