Difference Between Ancestry and Heritage

Key Difference – Ancestry vs Heritage

Ancestry can simply be defined as the decent or the lineage of a person. All  beings on this earth have their own ancestry. When we trace back the history, we can think of our ancestors who are great grandparents, and we are descendants of their ancestry. On the other hand, heritage is the inherited customs, traditions, beliefs, monuments, and artifacts from our ancestors. Heritage includes both physical objects and intangible things. The key difference between ancestry and heritage is that the ancestry is the lineage of the people while the heritage is the inheritance from the ancestry. In this article, we are going to look at the difference between the terms, ancestry and heritage, in more detail.

What is Ancestry?

Ancestry deals with the people who come before us in our line of lineage. One’s parents, grandparents and great grandparents and their former generations can be taken as the ancestry of him/her. In scientific terms, the people who are responsible for one’s physical existence via procreation can be recognized as the ancestry or ancestors. Once we trace back the past, we are able to draw a family tree based on the ancestry of anybody. Thus, ancestry is genetically and generationally inherited. Nobody can change his/her ancestry though he or she can hide details.

Being aware of one’s ancestry is helpful in certain matters, such as identifying diseases and certain habits. Also, ancestry adds value to one’s personal identity. Ancestry has some connection with one’s birthplace because his family members and ancestors might have been living there for a long time. But it is not necessary for a person to be in the very place that they were born to trace back his ancestry. However, it might be useful in order to collect deeper facts about one’s ancestors.

ancestry vs. heritage

What is Heritage?

Heritage deals with cultural inheritance. Material things, as well as non-tangible things, can be inherited via culture. Whatever the things we inherit from our ancestors can be considered as heritage. Also, peoples’ lifestyles are shaped by heritage. That is, we form our behaviors according to the habits, lifestyles, ideas, beliefs, and practices, etc., inherited from our culture. Heritage can be seen in many forms. Natural resources, such as fauna and flora, landscapes, land forms, etc. can be considered as natural heritages. Artifacts, paintings, jewelry, clothes, and monuments can be described as material heritages. Beliefs, values, traditions, ethics, and morals are non-physical features that we’ve  inherited. All these things add value to humans as a whole, and we all benefit from those heritages.

An important fact about heritage is that it could be preserved and valued as well as it could be destroyed. We can leave our heritages to the future generations also if we want. However, heritage is an essential part of our current life.

difference between ancestry and heritage

What is the difference between Ancestry and Heritage?

Definitions of ancestry and heritage

Ancestry: Ancestry is one’s historical evolution, based on family relationships.

Heritage: Heritage is a sort of inheritance from the ancestry, not necessarily relatives.

Characteristics of Ancestry and Heritage


Ancestry: Ancestry is more or less a biological phenomenon.

Heritage: Heritage is mostly a cultural phenomenon.


Ancestry: No one can change his/her ancestry unless he or she hide details about it.

Heritage: Heritage can be preserved as well as destroyed, according to the will.


Ancestry: Ancestry is important in figuring out details on diseases, genetic conditions.

Heritage: Heritage is important in understanding cultural and social values, especially in bygone.

Image Courtesy:

Katarzyna & William by M.Dolly [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

“Heritage Hill 2″ by Kent county; transferred by User:Werewombat [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons