Family History Class Notes – What is Family History?

Genealogy is the study of the relationships between groups of people, generation by generation, and is part of the wider study of family history.  Ancestral and Descendant Charts are often used to represent this. These compiled and charted genealogies are often called family trees and are a representation of the skeleton of a family’s history.


Image from Google Images -retrieved 8 March 2010family-tree-printable

Family History is much more and includes matters such as your ancestors’ appearance, occupations, and day-to-day life; how they were affected by, and reacted to, the social conditions and historical events of the time. A study of these things may give you the answers to some leading questions concerning your family – such as why they emigrated to Australia rather than America.

Baxter Family Histories

Both Surnames and Christian names are very important to your family history, as they are a key to a person’s identity, and therefore their life.

Remember there is no such thing as a ‘correct’ way to spell a particular Family or Surname, or indeed even Christian or Given names, and over a lifetime a person’s name may be spelled and recorded in many ways by the person themselves, or by others. Always check various possible spellings when looking for your ancestors.

Also note there can be persons of the same Surname, Christian Name, and of the approximate age living in the same place and at the same time. They may, or may not be related in some way. This can be particularly so if the Surname is rather ‘common’, for example, Smith or Jones, etc..

The main reason people are interested in family history is that they want to know more about and understand themselves. Who they are, where they came from and why they like the things they do or where their talents come from? Studying your family history can answer many of these questions.

When researching your family history the place to start is yourself.

You are the main person and anchor for your family history.

Did you know your family history is unique? The only other people in the whole world, who have the same ‘family tree’ as you, are your full blood siblings -brothers and sisters. If you are an only child, you are the only person who has that ‘ family tree’. You may share ‘twigs’ and ‘branches’ with many other people, but not the whole ‘tree’.

Therefore, you cannot do your family history on the Internet in an afternoon, no matter what the ‘ads’ may tell you. Nor is ‘family history’ a competition to see how many names you can collect on your ‘ tree.’

When we begin our family history we need to ask ourselves these questions:

What information have I already got?

How am I going to record and organize this information?

How am I going to track my progress or the lack of it?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s