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Some Key Terms Directly Related To Studying Your Ancestry

Aug 17, 2007
Before beginning a study of one's ancestry, it is important to know one's terminology. Here then are a few key terms that one would do best to know.

Ancestral Charts

An Ancestral Chart is a picture or diagram of a descendant and his ancestors. It is the framework or skeleton on which a Family History is built. It may be arranged in any one of a multitude of ways, sometimes resembling an open fan, but more often shown by a plain diagram on one or more sheets of paper ruled for the purpose and indicating the multiplication of lines necessary to represent the geometrical progression needed to accommodate the actual number of ancestors of any one person.

An Ancestral Chart will contain only names, dates of births, deaths and marriages, and possibly the place of residence of the various people named. It is a skeleton history giving only the vital record.

Ancestral History

An Ancestral History in a compilation of data combined with interesting incidents, with reference to lines of ascent from a common descendant. It starts with a person in the present or some recent time and works back to earlier dates along all lines of blood which have contributed to the life of the individual selected as the starting point, thus embracing many families of different surnames and many strains of blood in no way connected only as they are the ancestors of a common offspring. Ancestral History is one straight line from child to parent so far back as it is carried.

An Ancestral History, because its focal point is in one person of recent date, or at most in one family of brothers and sisters, is of more private nature than a genealogy. It is of interest in its totality to only a few people and is prepared more for a pastime than for any historical value it may reveal and, therefore, is not prepared with a view of publication.


A Genealogy is a compilation of data with reference to lines of decent. It starts with one common ancestor who may be the emigrant, or one of the emigrants if there were several bearing the same surname, who came to this country in colonial times. Or it may begin with any subsequent ancestor heading a particular branch of the family surname.
From the beginning point, wherever it may be, the genealogy works down to a more recent date, even to the present time enumerating by generations the descendants of the selected ancestor and following only the blood lines of the one chosen forefather. Genealogy is a history of one family of one blood strain only.

The genealogy may be restricted to those persons bearing the same surname as the selected ancestor in which case it is only the history of sons and unmarried daughters of the family, or it may be enlarged to include the marriages of daughters and the enumeration of their immediate families, which by the way is the most common practice and the plan to be most strongly recommended, or it may be still further extended to include all known descendants of the ancestor, thus embracing the ancestral name and the surnames acquired by the daughters through marriage in all branches.

The latter method would produce a family history which could be termed a full genealogy and would be the complete history so far as it could be gathered of an ancestor and all his blood descendants - the complete history of one strain of blood. Thus, while an Ancestral History is the history of a descendant and his ancestors, a Genealogy is a history of an ancestor and his descendants.


A Genealogist is a person who, professionally or otherwise, practices the science of examining public and private records with the object of compiling in some form the history of a family. In its broader meaning it embraces both those persons who are working on Genealogies and those who are preparing Ancestral Charts and Ancestral Histories. In this treatise the term Genealogist will be used in its broader sense to indicate any person who for any reason is examining and compiling any sort of family records.
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