|The Owen McDonnell Family|
Hmmm. . . . that caused me to question and examine my own stand on this issue. My answer is that. . . I don't know. I guess it might depend on which day and what hour you ask me. I have used the words interchangeably in past blog posts, but Susan is right, there is a difference. Like Susan, I am passionate about "the stories" as are many others. I also search endlessly for documentation to disprove or validate a family legend. Do I own a copy of "Evidence Explained"? - No. Would I like to? - Yes. Would I use it? - That's a tough one to answer. Does being a professional (as in being paid to research, give presentations, or opinions) mean you are a Genealogist with a capital G? Does restricting your research to your personal family history make you a family historian? Not always. Does being a family historian mean you don't document/verify your findings? . . . of course not!
I find it all fascinating. And the documentation, birth certificates, land records, muster out rolls, wills, marriage bonds, and obituaries are the skeleton for the photos, newspaper articles, letters, and local histories which put flesh on the bones. I don't see how I could have one without the other . . . wasn't there a song like that? I have known people who proudly tell you how many ancestors they have in their tree and the earliest date of their lineage. Rattling off a list of dates and famous ancestors seems to be what makes them happy. Others will tell you of the latest scandal they discovered in their family, the story of how their family immigrated to the United States, settled the West or lost loved ones in a war. They speak about long dead ancestors as if they just had Sunday dinner with them last week and expect a letter any day now. Guess who I want to sit by at the next genealogy convention?
I can't tell you how many ancestors are in my tree because I don't count, and I would have to be organized to know. I haven't seriously traced back much farther than the mid 1850's unless you count that jaunt I made to Chipping Warden last summer. I adore newspaper articles and photos because they make a name into a person. But I build my family on the documentation even if the commas are not all in the right place or even completely missing. Does this mean I am not a genealogist? I hope not. Philosophically I line up with Susan, but maybe we differ in how we view the terms.
How do you define the difference between a family historian and a genealogist? Do you perceive a difference?
Do I have to choose? Can't I be both?