Because of a search through old newspapers at Google News Archive yesterday I began to think about what I view as the differences between genealogy and family history.
A genealogist searches for names, dates, and places of family members who came before, and seeks to verify blood relationships between individuals.
A family historian searches for the names, dates, relationships, and places, but is also interested in learning about the historic settings of those family members and their relationships to other people and to their environments.
I don't think a family historian can be a family historian without first being a genealogist: without the information of names, dates, locations there's no setting of time or place. Without the relationships, there is no family. But a person can stop at being a genealogist and have little interest in the activities that took place in the lives of ancestors except as they help document names, dates, and relationships.
I don't know that one is better than the other, but for me, learning about the environment in which my ancestors lived gives a new dimension to them and their lives. It helps me imagine my grandmother ironing her dress and fixing her hair before her visit to the photographer's studio. It lets me imagine leaving the light of day behind to work in a dark and dangerous coal mine. Learning about homemaking in the 1800s helps me put my great-grandmothers in their kitchens and on their farms. And so many other settings help me envision of the lives of my ancestors.
I think I am more of a family historian - after I've found the people, dates, locations, and relationships. I guess I must be both!
How about you? Are you a genealogist, a family historian, or both? After finding the names, what matters most to you as you search out your ancestors?