Thursday, 5 September 2013

Response to Genealogy: A House Divided or A House With Many Doors?

These badges are all the rage just now and I rather like them. This was produced using an iPhone app, called ironically, Keep Calm!

A week or so ago Thomas at Geneabloggers resurrected the subject matter of the state of the genealogical community in his recent post Genealogy: A House Divided Door.

When Thomas mentioned it a few months ago, I read the post, and thought I would write something then everything kind of went happened and the post was not written. That does not mean I didn't think about it or reflect upon it. I did, and with this follow up post I did the same, determined that I would respond, albeit, rather late.

For me this issue is broken down into several points -the opinions reflected here are mine, so if you don't agree, play nice!
  • Genealogy is about understanding your line of descent, and family history is about taking that line of descent and fleshing out the bones. Discovering through whatever sources possible what your ancestors did and when they did it. It is also good to understand the history of the time, which might indicate why they did, what they did.
  • Genealogy is a the fastest growing hobby. I can't give a source for that fact, because I didn't know when I read it I was going to cite it!
    • This is because the internet makes accessing data easier
    • We can contact archives in a speedy manner and thus receive an email (hopefully) in response to our inquiry without the need to pay for postage. Remember those days of stamped addressed envelopes or international reply coupons?
    • Genealogy has got on the television - shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Heir Hunter and now the new show hitting the US screens Genealogy Roadshow (very envious!). Those shows, rightly or wrongly make genealogy look easy. In someways they have to....the production team are making an hour program, incorporating research which took many hours, so sadly, we see a succession of snapshots in these programmes rather than the succession of historical research which took anything from the click of a button to many, many hours.
Do we need such books? To me it is common sense that if you are researching and you plan on producing a piece of work you need to reference where it came from...the paper trail. Otherwise you are at risk of committing and being accused of plagiarism. I wrote about my concerns here, however, look at Ancestry. It is littered with trees with no source material. Does that mean they are worthless? Perhaps, perhaps not. My tree on Ancestry is private. Should someone hack into the account they will have a tree with no sources. The tree is there for my benefit which is why it is private. If you believe that someone shares a connection to you and there are no sources, you can always trace the possible paper trail and drop them an email.

Sources are important. If you are a serious researcher you MUST reference where you found material. Not just for the benefit of others, but for yourself too. How many of us see something, note it down and forget where we saw it? Ironic given my statement above, but that is perfectly true.

Image from NGS

Then we have the newly released book Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W Jones. This book took the US genealogical world by storm. There have been read-a-longs and discussions on Google+ as we, as groups of genealogists seek to ensure understandings within the genealogical field.

These two books have attempted to raise the bar of genealogical research and understanding. 

Are they elitist? I do not believe so. I believe that these two books have a real place of worth within the genealogical arena. They are seeking to educate the novice genealogists, and act as a handbook and professional text for those who are advanced researchers or professional researchers.

Societies and Organisations are another string to the bow of genealogists. It is not just about paying your fees, receiving a journal of some kind and accessing data. Perhaps that is how it was when I started researching in the mid 1980's. Societies and organisations exist, as a way of bring like minded people together. At the start there were transcribing projects and many thousands and thousands of hours were invested in projects. Those projects are almost ignored these days because of the corporate enterprises that have sprung up.

Is Genealogy elitist?  Perhaps and perhaps not. Societies, forums, books and alike exist to enable the coming together and the sharing of data, best practise and standards. What is the point of investing in hours of research, if once you are no more, your descendants can not make head or tail of it?

Qualifications - Do you need them? This is a tough question. Not necessarily is my answer, however, undertaking a type of course, whether that be a certificated course or simply for your pleasure will make you more knowledgeable. That knowledge will then enable you to join the dots when it comes to understanding things within our ancestors lives.

I have spent the last 20 odd years within pharmacy and management, and have qualifications that relate to that. I also have a diploma in Counselling and a history degree. In addition it makes me more informed and unless I tell you those things you won't know, nor did the person who spoke with me last week, who attempted to indicate that they were more knowledgeable in the genealogical arena in an attempt at one-up- manship, but should I need to tell you? No. Just because I do not shout from the rooftops does not mean it isn't so.

Genealogy is for everyone. We all have our families and line of descent. Our knowledge will make that genealogical journey more meaningful and worthwhile, but there is nothing that can't be learnt reading a book, a blog or a journal. It is about taking part, being part of a friendly, (on the whole) group of people from across the globe. That interaction is possible because the Internet has revolutionised the way we can interact with each other and undertake genealogical research whether it is for ourselves or for paying clients.

As I said at the beginning, the opinions reflected here are mine, so if you don't agree, keep calm!

Mentioned by Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings  - Best of the Genea Blogs 1-7th September 2013


  1. Julie,
    I really like your closing paragraph. Genealogy is for everyone...
    Thanks for sharing! Well stated.

    1. Thanks for reading & commenting, I appreciate it.


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