14 August 2007

Are we family historians or genealogists? UPDATE

Genealogy writer James M. Beidler for Pennsylvania's Lebanon Daily News stirred up controversy with a recent column on whether we should call ourselves genealogists or family historians.

It’s often difficult for a columnist to predict which columns will hit home with readers, and that’s definitely been the case with the column published two weeks ago that asked the philosophical question about whether we should call ourselves genealogists or family historians.

The print and Internet readership is still sending me responses, so I now realize that this column hit some nerves.

One reader wrote “I have been working on the genealogy of my family and others for many years but call myself a family historian. There is so much more to what I do than just recording birth, marriages and deaths. To really get to know our ancestors we need to find out their history.”

Several adoptees indicated their frustration concerning lack of access to their birth records, taking away the chance to learn about bloodline genealogies.

Among comments he received:

"I deserve a family genealogy (not history) as much as the next person, no matter what the law and the narrow-minded legislators across this country dictate."

"I am not interested in researching a family to whom I am not related by blood — it’s not my ancestry. I find it interesting hearing stories of my adoptive parents’ relatives and ancestors, but it’s really the same as listening to my neighbors or co-workers talk about their families’ past."

Read the entire column here

One reply by an international adoptee to Beidler is here and provides additional insight into Beidler's original question. The writer addresses other categories of alternative families, which can include step children, blended families, foster children and guardianship. Today's technology also includes such categories as women carrying babies for their daughters or sisters, surrogate mothers and donor-conceived babies.

An earlier Tracing the Tribe post concerns the changing face of Judaism, and directly covers the issue of international adoption.

I'd like to ask Tracing the Tribe's readers the same question:
Are we genealogists or family historians?
How do you or how would you address this in your own research?
I'm looking forward to your comments.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:36 PM

    I regard myself as a family historian, both because genetics is only part of my research into family background and because I have adopted children who I regard as central to my family. DNA studies suggest various births among Jews involving non-Jewish mates throughout history, which further diminishes emphasis on genetics in family makeup.