24 January 2007

Varieties of family history

I discovered a new blog on family history written by history professor Todd Carney (Southern Oregon University), who has written an interesting post on what he says are "at least three kinds of family history."

First, Carney talks about the more academic pursuit of the “history of the family” as a social, political, and economic unit.

Then he talks about "a less professionalized pursuit, once largely known as 'genealogy,' now increasingly called 'family history,' which seeks to deal with specific families-of-origin in a person’s ancestry, usually the one doing the research."

Carney writes that the difference between family history and genealogy is one of scale and scope. Genealogy, he says, is names, dates and places, while family history puts flesh on our ancestors' bones for an historical account of the family.

His third category is "thicker-and-richer," which he admits borrowing from Madison Avenue, and which investigates the social, political, cultural and psychological environment in which a family developed. He calls this "family culture," the consequence of the historical process as the generations develop.

Carney speaks about the search for meaning across these categories. I'm looking forward to more of his postings.

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