Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Just Genealogy?

Created via iPhone App - Keep Calm
On Monday, James Tanner wrote a blog post titled Inclusive or Exclusive? then on Tuesday Jenny Lancelot wrote a response post, titled Inclusive or Exclusive? How about Just Accurate?. Both of these posts were excellent and I had been contemplating a similar issue and I wondered if James and Jenny were inspired by the same thing that prompted my thought process.

Casting my mind back to a few weeks ago, when Thomas at Geneabloggers raised a similar issue and I responded that post, which you can read HERE, so this discussion has been "out there" in the genealogical Internet arena for several week although in different guises. I am not implying it is old news, but I believe that there is a consistent theme of discontent within genealogy community, and that is important.

Genealogy and Family History are for me entwined. Recently I had cause to think about what they meant, not just to me, but to other genealogists and I came to the conclusion that whilst they are entwined for me, they perhaps mean different things to different people in different countries; and that the individual definitions are neither right or wrong, just different.

Just as I was considering responding to James, I received an email in relation to a completely different matter, however, in that email was a comment about a "leading genealogist" that I had in fact never heard of. So how leading was this person? So I Googled the name. The person is a well known genealogist in their Country of origin. I responded to my email, suggesting that the phrase leading genealogist is perhaps about perception.

Whilst I was gathering my thoughts to write a response in a hopeful coherent manner, Jen Baldwin shared Jenny Lancelot's post via Google+ and I made a comment on that thread, as did Tessa Keough.

The crux of the debate is the Internet has revolutionised the way in which genealogy and family history is undertaken by the masses. We are, from a young age encouraged to be competitive, thus, we strive to always do better and therefore in a response to that competitiveness professional qualifications have started to appear on the education horizon. The moment that happened the bar was raised.

In the G+ thread it was commented that people attempt to compare genealogy to medicine and law, and probably other disciplines too, and there is no comparison. I believe people do this to try and apply the thought processes they know to genealogy. I have spent over two decades in pharmacy management. There is no comparison to genealogy apart from the level of detail and accuracy that is involved. As part of that thread Tessa made the following comment -

"Genealogy, in my opinion, is a mixture of social science (history, geography, economics, sociology and psychology) and natural science (biology, and probably some others here as well)."

I completely agree with Tessa and I then I went a stage further. Firstly, in response to the accuracy debate. Should we even be debating accuracy? If we do not research carefully and accurately, seeking answers and clarity to those facts, it does seem pointless to pursue such a interest. Who wants to own a genealogical tree with data that can not be proved? Surely no one simply adds data that is not confirmed to their genealogy? - actually, yes they do. There are some that add material from the internet with the belief that if it is online then it must be true. No, there does need to be evidence and we head back to the statement cite your sources.

Genealogy is in someways almost flexible. As we research our ancestry, not just collecting the names and dates, but fleshing out the detail we can expand our interest into other disciplines thereby researching in an almost holistic approach. I have a particular interest in the fact that a very close relative to me had Polio when they were a child, by pursuing this section of their life I have a better understanding not just of those earlier events but also the current. As medical advancement has developed, so has the diagnosis of post Polio activity become more widely known and treatment managed. There is no cure for post polio syndrome.

Genealogy is in part all about the detail, and wider context of our ancestors.

So, back to the initial point. Is genealogy inclusive or exclusive? There is no easy way to say this, to some, genealogy and profile is about massaging their ego. It is as simple as that. I base my opinion on the evidence that I have seen within the genealogical arena from some members of the community, and thankfully they are in the minority.

To research your own ancestry you do not need a degree in history, nor a professional qualification in genealogy. I have a history degree that I undertook as a mature student and by the time I completed my degree I had already been working in the pharmacy profession for over 13 years. When I took my degree it was for me, rather than part of a personal development plan to professionally migrate from pharmacy to history, although in part; another 13 years on I have done so.

There is room in genealogy and family history for everyone. There is no room, in my opinion for those who need to be stroked like a Labrador and made to feel important, because that sends out a very different message.

Just recently there was the rock star genealogy awards. I shake my head in horror. That said, there were some very well deserving names on the list and I was, in the spirit of friendship and respect for some of those individuals delighted that they were nominated and that so many others agreed. In the case of several that were publicly  acknowledged it did nothing more than massage those egos I mentioned earlier. It is those awards, that send out the message of exclusivity and elitist behavior.

The genealogy community is, in effect a buffet in a restaurant. It is made up of some really wonderful people who bring an enormous amount of knowledge to the very large table. As a collective we should be feel proud to belong to such a wonderful and informative group and be mindful that we should not wish to be heading back to the popularity of the "in crowd" akin to the school playground.

I should point out, that I have never been part of that "in crowd", either at school, in my pharmacy career or now. The reason being, that I value being an individual and being treated as such. I challenge and have no issue with stating how I feel or presenting an opposing argument, whilst believing that if we stand together and share our knowledge and resources we become a strong and more educated group.

My final comments are therefore this.
  • We should acknowledge the contributions of many people within the genealogy community, not just the ones that shout the loudest or who appear to be high profile.
  • There is room in genealogy and family history for everyone.
The opinions I have expressed here are mine and therefore if you do not agree, play nicely!


  1. Very nicely written Julie!

  2. Thanks Julie! It is nice to read an article that affirms that genealogy / family history is for all of us not just for the self-important

  3. Very well put. I agree wholeheartedly.

  4. Thanks, Julie, for stating what I was thinking, too. Everyone has a place at the table! Let's welcome them.

  5. Anonymous3:33 am

    I agree that there is room in genealogy/family history for everyone.

  6. I totally agree, it's "just" genealogy. But there are always people who think they have to put themselves above others. I have one of those in one of my genealogy communities on G+ to the extent that I (and others) barely post there anymore because this guy has to criticise everything. Hi implies that our contributions are not important enough to be posted.

    1. Barbara, how disappointing that is, that someone doesn't see a value in exchanging thoughts, ideas and methodology with others, prefering the narrow minded approach of presumably his way is the right way.

      Can you form a new community and that perhaps you moderate? Or can you contact the moderator?

  7. The joy of family history is that we are all learning and on different points on the matter how long we research there's always going to be something to learn, some new strategy/skill, and as the stories unfold, new knowledge to acquire. Similarly there's always someone to learn from, but not necessarily the "leading lights", or perhaps a specific leader in a specific field eg Norwegian research.

    In terms of the Rockstar stuff, I can see why you say that even though my name appeared there. I took it as a compliment from a small group of my readers (and the person who nominated me) and was astonished to find my name there and very pleased that some people enjoy what I write. The reality, though, is the voting represented a very small sample of people so not indicative of anything.

    Again, having said that, there are names on that list I'd go out of my way to listen to, if I had the chance. What they do with my vote in terms of ego-stroking is irrelevant really. If they offer me content I can learn from, their ego issues are their own.

    The biggest problem with any sort of award, no matter how artificial it is (like the Rockstar stuff), is that so many other talented people seem not to get mentioned. We all have something to offer from our specific suite of skills.

    I picked up a bookmark in Africa which is pertinent "You may call yourself a big elephant but the bush is much bigger than you".

    1. Pauleen I was delighted when I saw your name (Jill and a few others) listed. For me the inclusion of names is recognition of quality of posts and in the cases of some (you included) I was genuinely delighted. The recognition is deserved because on the whole those named give to the community in the spirit of friendliness, collaboration etc, rather to the person I thought of who used that as another way of saying look at me I am great! - Furthermore at least three individuals used the accolade of rockstar on a public achievement list.

      I guess the difference is if person A is called a rockstar by person B that is one thing, but for person A to say I am a rockstar (self stroking) then that is something different.

      Absolutely I would go out of my way to listen to several, collaborate and share.

      I was delighted for you Pauleen quite simply because you deserve to be thanked for your contribution.

  8. Thanks Julie, I actually was ego-centric enough to think you weren't talking about me, given our interactions :-) I agree much depends on how people's own attitude.


Hello! Thanks for stopping by and choosing to leave a message. I read every message and I usually reply via the comment thread. Posts are currently moderated due to the sudden influx of spam postings!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...