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Definitions of Genealogy

  1. (noun) The study of descent.
  2. (noun) A record of descent for an individual, family, or group.
  3. (noun) A diagram that represents relationships in a family, also called a family tree.

Example of Genealogy

  • Quinn and Harley traced their family trees (or genealogies) when they had their first child, Riley.

Genealogy Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: ge·ne·al·o·gy

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /jee-nee-A-luh-jee/
  • British English – /jee-ni-A-luh-jee/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˌʤiːnɪˈæləʤi/
  • British English – /dʒiːnɪˈalədʒi/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: genealogies
  • Each level of a genealogy is a generation and they typically share similar ages, this is a type of age cohort and can exhibit a cohort effect.
  • Tracing genealogies is particularly important in societies where status or wealth is inherited.
  • William Halse Rivers “W. H. R.” Rivers (1864–1922) invented the genealogical method during the Torres Straits Expedition (1898–1899) and fully explicated the idea in Notes and Queries on Anthropology (1912).
  • A (noun) genealogist (adverb) genealogically studies (adjective) genealogic or (adjective) genealogical information.

Related Quotation

  • “The genealogical method has been used in modern urban anthropology where it is often combined with ego-centred network analysis. It has also been foundational in studies of the migration of ethnic groups to the United States. Most striking has been its application in medical anthropology. Thus, for example, among certain groups of New Guinea highlanders the disease kuru was proved not to be hereditary, as first thought, but associated with the spread of cannibalism throughout their territory” (Vincent 2010:330).

Related Video

Additional Information

Related Terms


Vincent, Joan. 2010. “genealogical method.” Pp. 330 in Routledge Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, edited by A. Barnard and J. Spencer. London: Routledge.

Works Consulted

Bilton, Tony, Kevin Bonnett, Pip Jones, David Skinner, Michelle Stanworth, and Andrew Webster. 1996. Introductory Sociology. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan.

Dillon, Michele. 2014. Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-first Century. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Morris, Mike. 2012. Concise Dictionary of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

O’Leary, Zina. 2007. The Social Science Jargon Buster: The Key Terms You Need to Know. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Scott, Jacquelyn Thayer, Judith Treas, and Martin Richards, eds. 2007. The Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Families. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publications.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Genealogy

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “genealogy.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved April 22, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/genealogy/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

genealogy. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/genealogy/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “genealogy.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/genealogy/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“genealogy.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/genealogy/>.