Thursday, March 6, 2014

Part 1: Vilifying the Work of New Genealogists

Warning: the following contains genealogy opinion and is the start of a new series for the week. This chilling image of the Fascists is from the Wolfsonian-FIU Library in Miami Beach, Florida. It's really interesting how propagandists used images like this to de-humanize the view of the enemy.

I am strongly getting that impression when it comes to the current state of genealogy. Folks are lining up to vilify the newest genealogists coming into the field (and no, you should not get an image of old people knocking young people here, it is across all ages!) and those folks who are working from sites like as being stupid, illiterate, degenerate, "doing it wrong", "not real genealogists", "not real family historians", "name collectors", and too unintelligent to follow the "rules". And that these folks view anyone who even breathes the word "source" or "formatting" as "elitists".

It's disheartening to see so many folks dismissed from such an interesting hobby that can help you with so many life skills. And like the old argument that "German = Fascist" which caused so many Germans to be shunned in WWII, "Muslim = Terrorist" which causes so many folks from across the spectrum to be wrongly ostracized or accused, and "American = fat, lazy, stupid" which has caused all smart Americans to masquerade as Canadians abroad, we need to stop playing with a stereotype. And what's worse? The folks who are leading the charge are the genealogy elite - Michael J. LeClerc, for example. I won't call all of them out, because I think its pointless. I doubt they're going to listen and will just continue driving the wedge between the generations until no one dares whisper the word genealogist for fear of being called a snobby, elitist, obsessive.

What does it do to a new genealogist or family historian's self worth when experienced genealogists say they have to delete everything and start over because they made so many mistakes? Or when we say their work is worthless, their platform is awful, and that they've stolen all their work?

We end up with a lot of new folks who are frustrated, think that we're a bunch of elitists and aren't willing to give genealogy another shot and leave the hobby, because they've done their work and there's no reason to continue. When in actuality, there are SO many reasons to continue.

What is happening in the field is that I see more and more folks chillingly cut out of the very conversations that would benefit them, because of intensity of derogatory language, and the "demands" of a few people who deem that they know better than all. And I'm not talking about the educated experts like Elizabeth Shown Mills, Geoffrey Rasmussen, James Tanner, Marien Pierre-Louis, Michael Hait, Judy Russell, Thomas MacEntee, Elise Powell, or Maureen Taylor (for example). I'm talking about online forum posters and group members for the most part.

I am actively involved in genealogy on Facebook, Twitter, Ravelry, and several other informal forum groups. In recent weeks (mostly spurred on by LeClerc's article) there have been posts where people are denigrated for wanting to find further education and not knowing where to go, for having their tree published online at all, and in many answers, urged to "throw away all that crap so that you can start over" (in this case an answer to someone who had inherited their parents' 30+ years of research! And others who were made out to be villains for even thinking about putting their tree online at all, because that's just "giving it away" and "everyone will steal it" and still others told that they should just stop doing genealogy unless they were willing to following X standard.

Tomorrow: let's play what's wrong with this picture. 

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