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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Many Layers of Genealogy

Okay, so I missed the Wednesday Wakeup last week. So here it is this week.

Since I've been reading and watching the genealogy blogs for the past year, I've noticed a lot of discussions and rants about the manner in which some of us research. We all know what that means: the name collecting, the lines without proof, the whole genealogies without sources, genealogies back to Adam, etc.

I know a lot of it is out there, and I bet some of us (me included) started out doing at least one of those terrible things I mentioned above. My intent here is not to rant again about those people. Why? Because I don't want to discourage them from genealogy and drive them out of our hobby/profession just because they don't have the "higher" standards that some of us have.

Let me digress for a minute.

Genealogy, as a profession and hobby, has many layers, like any profession/hobby.

First and foremost, you have the "professionals," those who make money off of genealogy in some way or another, and who set the standard for research. We all know the names of those people, we follow many of their blogs, listen to them at conferences or online, ask them for help or even hire them for our research.

Next you have the amateurs. They generally don't make money off of genealogy. They might have day jobs (and night jobs).  But they try to set the standards for their research at the level of the professionals. It doesn't necessarily mean they feel they are equals to the professionals (they can be), but more like they try to emulate the professionals. I myself, feel that I am in this group.

Lastly, you have the hobbyists. They may be the greatest in number of the groups and they are just as important to our advancement of genealogy as any other group. They may be name collectors, they may dabble a little bit, they may have a tree back to King Arthur, they may not source their work at all or not very well and they likely don't have the time, money or knowledge to get fully engaged in the hobby.

That's okay. Because you know why? I bet most of us started out in that group. We just realized we wanted more out of our hobby. So we set a higher standard for ourselves. And more importantly, a lot of my family information and documents and pictures come from people who fall in this group. Without them, I'd be deficient in my family history knowledge. So they may not have a proper source citation for great great grandpa's death....but they can show me the bible that has that date written in it. And they can show me the picture of him too.

My point here is, we don't want to discourage these people at all! That doesn't mean we can't have high standards for ourselves or for the hobby/profession. But we have to understand that a lot of people aren't going to share those high standards with us. We have to coexist and encourage them to take their interest to the next level, if they can. Otherwise if we berate them at every step, it won't be enjoyable, they won't feel welcomed and we just performed a disservice to our hobby or profession that we love.

Cheers and Happy Hunting

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

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