When I was in Primary, many years ago, we sang a song titled “Genealogy- I Am Doing It.” The song has since been rewritten as “Family History- I am Doing It”. This change is just one of many indicators of a general shift in the Church in the past couple of decades from talking about genealogy to talking about family history.
So why the change? If I understand correctly (and I concede that I know nothing about the subject), genealogy is the organizing of our ancestors into giant pedigree charts. Family history, on the other hand, is like genealogy plus. It not only involves figuring out our ancestors’ names and dates of birth and the like; it includes searching out all the records to tell us more about their lives. It’s family history research that turns up all the pioneer stories we hear in General Conference, for example.
But it seem like all we really need to do is genealogy. President Hinckly said in April 1998 General Conference, “All of our vast family history endeavor is directed to temple work. There is no other purpose for it.”
If the purpose of family history research is to do temple ordinances, why bother with the extra work of family history? Why not just do genealogy? I think that all we need to perform temple work for someone is enough information to identify her uniquely. That might include birth date, birth location, death date, and the like. So if I do genealogy research and find out about my ancestors Jane and John Doe*, who were both born in 1882, what does it matter if I do more digging and find out that they started a business that supplied mazes to psychologists for experimental rats to run through?
*Names have been changed. Their real names are Jane and John Q. Public.