Genealogy, Ancestors and Family History – What are they?

Someone recently asked me the difference between genealogy and family history. Genealogy is the actual study of your lineage, the direct line from which you descend.  And as you collect information, it is critical that you document and “prove” as you go along. Just because your grandmother told you she was 19 when married and that their first child was born 12 months later does not make it a fact. A birth certificate, marriage license and death certificate are the common documents to collect for “proving” your family information. Your ancestors are your direct descendants – grandparents, great grandparents, etc. And family history is often thought of as the stories that make your ancestors come alive.

So for a quick reference, genealogy is the study and proving facts; ancestors are the people and family history are the stories. Also, it may sound odd, but a “collateral” ancestor, sometimes referred to as an indirect ancestor, is one not in a direct line of ascent – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.