Karen, one of the things I love about genealogy is the connections. What you see as a grapevine are people with connections to others - in family, community, previous homeland, church, business ventures, and in general, history. In my opinion, genealogy can reveal connections and stories that history can't. Local histories are generally written about or by the popular or powerful people of the time. Their stories and memories are told. But, through genealogy we can trace a person or family and place them in the timeline of the local history. Stories that seemed unrelated suddenly take on new importance when viewed through the life of a relatively unimportant person, who may never even have been mentioned in the local histories.
I live in a rural county on the Colorado plains where my husband's family has lived for 7 generations. My husband and I started entering the people and their histories in RootsMagic. One of the history books has a fairly thorough genealogy of the people. We shouldn't have been surprised when 2,000 of the 3,000 people we entered (from 1860-present day) showed up as related to one another.
If I were to write a family history, I would start with my husband's great-great-grandfather, who came to Colorado in 1874 on the train with several other families who settled in the area from Illinois. At times the lens would be zoomed in on Daniel Epler, showing his homestead and family. Other times, I would use the wide-angle lens talking about the town and people. Connections to families from Illinois would be revealed, connections to other homesteaders, connections through church, family, and business ventures. With Daniel Epler as the primary thread, the story of the Elbert community would be revealed through the stories of the family and the stories of history.
This is how I've written a paper on The Cash Creek Miners. My great-great-grandfather brought his family to a Colorado mining camp called "Cash Creek" in 1861. As I researched his story, I discovered his connections to names of "known" people in the local histories. He was a partner in a mining company with nine other men, who, ten years later, found themselves on opposite sides of a vigilante war. The son of one of the men was shot and killed, very likely by one of the men his father had been partners with in the mining company. If I hadn't researched my great-great-grandfather, the story of Cash Creek and the mining company would never have been connected with the Lake County War because during the Lake County War the miners were farmers living 20 miles south of Cash Creek.
I hope this helps a little bit. It isn't easy, but sometimes looking at the story from a different angle keeps us from becoming overwhelmed.