27 November 2012
Tuesday's Tip - Something For Everyone
I was going through all the things I haven't had time to read and found Tim Forsythe's blog post titled, 'The Drive-By Genealogist's Lament'. I started to write a comment, then realized it'd be way too long. And I've really been itching to address this issue for a number of important reasons. I believe, if you bear with me and read on, there will be something for everyone. That's my goal: something for everyone.
If you didn't want to take the time to read Tim's excellent post, here's how I started my response:
Well, now that you've called 95% of the family history/genealogy community lazy, I have to comment. I don't know if I'd slap the word 'lazy' umbrella-style over every person who found a relative in an online tree, downloaded the file and got jazzed by the fact they just found 1,000 new relatives. I did it when I first started in 1996. I was elated!
Then I got hammered by a Professional Genealogist who told me (paraphrasing) that I was full of crap and didn't know crap and I better learn something if I'm going to do this (genealogy). *fakes cowering* So I did. Learn something...on my own. Poorly. And I posted a tree out there using Family Tree Maker software and created my little family page and was so happy.
At this point I realized I was going to probably end up writing more than Tim's original post, and didn't think that was appropriate or professional. So, here's the rest of my story:
I took a break. A long break. Oh, I looked at my genealogy stuff a couple of times a year, but between the loss of family members, friends and a bunch of other life stuff, it wasn't a priority. Then I came back. I was an Archivist now. My research skills were sharply honed in college and I wanted to get back to Genealogy. I started to think about it as a profession. So, I got online, started a blog about my experience as a family historian and future professional, and started to read the blogs of Professional Genealogists. And what they said about source citations made sense, even though I didn't want it to. I looked back at my old research and online tree and saw that it was like Swiss cheese without the cheese. All holes. I had propagated incorrect information. Well shoot.
Then, about that same time, someone posted somewhere on Social Media that ALL trees MUST be cited or they have no place on the Internet. *Said in my best Genealogy Police voice* My first thought was, "wow, that's harsh...I wouldn't have posted that old tree if..." *face palm* Oh, OK. I guess I can *see* that point. I might not like it or agree with it, but I can understand that side of the argument. I propagated incorrect information via an on-line tree. That information will be out there in perpetuity and a researcher may copy it and use it and so on and so on.
Just a few weeks later, my study group was learning about Source Citations. Talk about brutal. Someone could write a book about all the iterations...oh. Heh. There IS a book. And a website (now). But it's a bit like giving the current Tax Code to a third grader and expecting him/her to understand it. After much discussion, we determined the real key is that the citation should be clear enough for the person using it to FIND the source of the evidence that's being cited, which makes sense from a researcher's standpoint. You want to get as close to the primary source as you can and, if someone else has already done that, and they explain (cite) where that was (source), you've found what you were looking for (evidence)! And you're happy.
Then I had a brilliant idea and I posted it on Social Media. I said that companies like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and every site that holds family trees should filter the trees into different buckets. BAM!! I got slammed to the ground by several people saying I was being divisive and non-inclusive and a hater of beginning genealogists. Really?! I was shocked and taken by surprise that they hadn't taken the time to even read my complete suggestion which is this: that family history sites have the technological ability to filter trees by the number of entries which have sources. That with that ability, they could create two places where trees reside: a place for trees without sources and a place for trees with sources. There's no exclusion of information; it's still all there. If you want to pull 10,000 people into your beginning tree and post it, go right ahead. If you don't want to put a single bit of data into your tree without using the Genealogical Proof Standard, that's fine too. And EVERYONE in between those two extremes is welcome to post whatever they want in whatever unsourced/sourced state they choose because the site will determine which bucket it goes in, automatically.
A RESEARCHER can then choose whether or not they want to look at sourced and cited trees or those without sources and citations. That's the root of what we do as family historians and/or genealogists of any stripe. We research. We don't sit passively and wait for the information to come to us, we go get it. And we all have different levels of ability with regard to that research and different reasons for doing the research in the first place. This solution excludes no one and provides more efficient access for the researcher, be they the lazy *tongue in cheek* professional who is seeking sourced material or the beginner who has yet to learn the difference between evidence and a source and just wants to pull 1,000 people into a database and go through it piece by piece to uncover whether that information is accurate.
It's a suggested solution, rather than simply a comment. We were all beginners once. We should openly welcome people who are simply hoping to find out where their grandfather was born, or if their 2nd great grandfather really went to Brazil. And if they get the bug and want to take the step of learning how the Genealogical profession works and what its standards are, there are lots of resources for them to do that and plenty of us out here willing to share. To find solutions to problems. Because there really can be something for everyone.
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