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Shirley G. Hodges
Are You a Genealogist or a Family Historian?
Published: 19 March 2012
By Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

Some times when people ask us what we do we say that we are genealogists. I am proud to be a genealogist but I really want to be much more.

Genealogy is a record of the names, dates and places lived for the members of our families. Genealogies do not usually contain a lot of information about the family.

Family histories are not just charts, scrapbooks or a photograph album. A family history includes the details about our family. It includes their biographies and it fills in the gaps between their birth and death. We need to find the stories and things that give us a peak in the personalities of our ancestors. Each of those who have gone before us have paved the way for us to be who we are today. Our ancestors truly are a part of us and who we are. We need to write their stories for the benefit of our loved ones and posterity.

Many times a researcher spends months and sometimes years in researching their family. These efforts are wasted if we only write down a few names and dates on a chart. We need to start writing their stories while the stories are still fresh in our minds. We need to start doing it now before they are lost to memory.

People are sometimes hesitant to write their family histories because they are afraid they will not be well written. I am sure that many of us have come across publications that might have been poorly written, unscholarly and sometimes a little illogical. These same publications may have given us that critical lead that we needed to break through some of our brick walls.

Talk with all the older members of your family as quickly as possible. They can tell us about their early years and about their ancestors. We need to record this information so that it does not go to the grave with them.

Continually watch to see if any of your family members have written family histories. We recently discovered a book entitled God's Mountain (Last of the Hahns Peak Homesteaders). It is a wonderful 359 page book written by my husbands 3rd cousin once removed, Rose Marie Hodges Wheeler. It is a wonderful history of their years homesteading and it gives us a lot of family information. We can sometimes overlook books like this because we think they might not have anything in them about our family.

Write your family histories. Share them with your families. Make sure that you are putting copies in genealogical repositories so that they will be available to further researchers.

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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