I would like to tell you what genealogy is about. I mean Genealogy in a broader sense. I would like to share with you my notion of this concept in my own words without any dictionary definitions.
Should you want to find names, surnames, and places of residence, biographies, photos, whatever else about your ancestors – that’s all about Practical Genealogy. Besides, there is Historical Genealogy. The difference between the two, is that the latter is focused on the outstanding personalities and their impact on the history of the mankind in particular.
Eventually a desire can arise to “revive” one’s ancestors – to learn what their habits, way of life, environment and living conditions were. At this very moment the researcher begins to deal with the related fields of expertise. Thus:
We cannot but work with History – even if it wasn’t among one’s favorites during the school years – simply because our ancestors didn’t live in a vacuum, on the contrary they were in the thick of actions. It’s a must for a researcher to get to know History!
In order to find and analyze historical sources and their credibility one can use materials of Source Studies.
Ethnography and Regional Studies will help with learning more about living conditions, characteristics of housing, home ware and clothes of one’s ancestors.
Should you find in your grandmother’s trunk an embroidered towel or shirt – go over to Symbolism of Folk Ornaments. And to Folklore in case you remember your grandmother singing folk songs and telling fairy tales and fables.
Should you have preserved military insignia of your grandparents or great grandparents – any decorations, medals, even buttons – refer to Phalerestics and Button Collecting. There is also a separate study of military outfits called Uniformology. It studies military clothing throughout History. And Vexillology deals with flags and banners.
Numesmatics and Bonistics will help with ancient coins and bank notes. One can learn the purchasing power of this money at different times from old newspapers, especially classified section.
Should you have same envelopes with stamps or postcards – refer to Philately and Deltiology. Besides you will explore the peculiarities of handwriting while trying to read ancient letters, diaries and archival records. If your ancestors were foreigners and spoke a different language probably you’ll have to learn it. However, should your ancestors have spoken your language – be sure 200 years ago it was completely different from what it is now. Once again you’ll have to learn it almost as a foreign language.
Gravestone Studies can help to find one’s ancestors grave. As its name suggests, it deals with gravestones and tombstones and inscriptions on them in particular. Numerous volumes of inscriptions have been published about cemeteries all around the world.
Should your have found a coat of arms of your noble ancestors – refer to Heraldry. Shoult it be some emblem, for instance a spoon, a ring or some garmrnt with a monogram – refer to Emblems and Symbols Studies. For a ring with a seal refer to Sphragistics.
A search for origins of proper names and surnames of your ancestors, names of the settlements they lived, will bring you to Onomastics.
One day you can get some ancient documents, ancient legal acts: Diplomatics and Hermeneutics deal with analysis, authentication and interpretation of ancient texts.
Should you decide to make a genetic test and store results in the genetic database the basics of Genetics can be of some help. Simply for better understating the test results.
The above list is far from being full, in fact there are much more disciplines adjacent to Genealogy which one will eventually face in one’s searches. A huge amount of time is required to get to know all that by oneself, however, thanks to Internet, experts in different fields of knowledge at specialized forums can help find an answer much faster!