Monday, September 10, 2012

Say "Family History", not "Genealogy"

Scott Phillips, Genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services, wrote an interesting article recently.  He suggested three ways to get younger generations interested in Genealogy.  His first suggestion was:  

"Never use the word 'genealogy' with younger folks. 
Use 'family history'."

WOW! ... It sounds so simple, yet I'm having trouble accepting this idea fully because the word "genealogy" is so ingrained in my brain that I can't imagine NOT using it.  And some form of that word is in the names of most genealogical societies, right?  It's all over the place! And yet, if I stop and think back, I can recall some empty looks on people's faces when I would mention the word "genealogy".  And I also remember that sometimes -- to clarify -- I would say something like:  "You know, finding your family history".  Then these people seemed to better understand what I was trying to say.  But I must admit, the very next time I was explaining what I do to someone, I went right back to saying "genealogy" without even thinking twice about it!  

Scott conducted his own (unscientific, but intriguing nonetheless) experiment and concluded, yes, saying "family history" instead of "genealogy" really does work.  He goes on to explain why he thinks it's a better word choice.  So after analyzing my past experiences and reading his article, I am going to try it from now on -- at least when speaking with people that are younger.  [This is sure going to take some getting used to.  Guess I have some changing of my own to do!]

QUESTIONS:  How about you?  What do you think about using these different words with younger people?  Think it will help to get them interested in "Family History"?

To learn more about Scott's reasoning and his two other ideas to interest younger generations, read his article here:  Scott Phillips article

Jenny Davis

Phillips, Scott. "Getting the Younger Generations Into Genealogy in Three Easy Steps." The Huffington Post (UK edition), posted 31 August 2012, ( : accessed 9 September 2012).


  1. Jenny,

    Interesting question. I use the term Family History and I belong to a group called the "Family History Interest Group" at a local library. Our monthly attendance is between 30 and 100, depending on the topic.

    There are genealogists in the group. Now my use of that term is "name collectors". Many of the presentations are about getting the story about or behind those names.

    I think that the younger generation(s) are more interested in the stories. I know that when I talk to my cousins, new or old, they want the stories. I think that fits the Family Historian or Family History title better for what I (we) attempt to do.

    I just took a peek at Scott Phillips article, and I think I am pretty close to saying the same thing.

    Example: I have an elderly Aunt. She has a bunch of great-grandkids, and grandkids around. Because her daughter, my cousin, died way too young, I have lost track of, or was not able to keep up with her children and their children.

    So, I made an attempt to engage the "Face Book Generation" in helping me gather the family stories, actually that names and dates, so that I would capture the stories.

    Using Facebook and WikiTree, I have been able to do, just that. I keep up with the "family" using FB, and am collecting those stories. So, using the Electronic tools that we have today, is allowing me to create a book for my aunt for her next birthday. I could not have used the "G" word and get the data that I have using FB and WikiTree.

    Thank you for posting this question.


    1. Hi Russ, thanks for sharing your opinions and tips! It's nice to hear what other people think about the "G" word (humorous synonym, BTW). I appreciate you pointing out that stories are the main interest of younger generations. And I love your usage of FB and WikiTree. That's a great idea. I haven't done a whole lot of connecting with distant cousins that way -- YET. Thanks and hope to catch you later...

  2. My two son's (college age) have no problem with the term genealogy. Maybe I am lucky - but they are actually interested in what I find...(usually). :-)
    Welcome to the geneabloggers family.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

    1. Hi Theresa, I'm glad they're interested. So it seems like substituting the words 'family history' for 'genealogy' isn't ALWAYS necessary to gain a young person's interest. Glad to hear it and thanks for the welcome. The Geneabloggers family is so nice!