Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Not Going To Be As Easy As It Looks On TV

~ Rosie O'Donnell ~
Who Do You Think You Are?

Truer words. But then how many of you watch those DIY programs that accomplish miraculous construction and decorating changes in thirty minutes? My husband always cringes when I ask if we "could knock out a wall this weekend or do one of those fancy paint treatments." He's a professional and he knows all too well what's involved.

He let me do the paint treatment once and it was a complete disaster. And yes, I was discouraged. It wasn't as easy as it looked on TV. But I caught the painting bug and I wanted to know more.

Is researching our family history really any different? WDYTYA wraps up a tremendous amount of research in less than an hour. Those who have been involved in researching for themselves or others probably cringe just like my husband. Newbies have caught the bug, but we can all see how they could be discouraged.

Me, personally. I can't do anything unless I do it well. (Type A) So when I embarked on the mysteries of my family history I took a nine month genealogy course at the University of Washington. I already had a solid foundation in research and writing. Yes, I'm a citation geek, and I make no apologies.

In a brilliant post, Kimberly Powell of Kimberly's Genealogy Blog on About.com asks:
How do we as genealogists strike a balance between encouraging sound genealogical standards and practices without discouraging family history newcomers who find themselves quickly discouraged by those same standards, which they often don't understand and find unnecessarily complicated? Isn't there room for genealogists of all viewpoints and varying skill levels? Can't we find a way to educate and encourage without beating people over the head with our genealogy ideals?

How Can We Strike A Balance?

One method is by example. I love formulating citations for the weird, strange, and unusual things I find while researching my own family history and those beautiful old photographs that I collect. The standard for formulation of a citation in the world of genealogy is Evidence Explained. I use citations.

Have I been known to modify the standard for my own particular situation or on a whim to make it more understandable for me? Absolutely! Are my citations perfect? Hardly ever, but they make me happy.

The standards I use, the standards I set, are MY OWN. They are to save me when ten years from today I want to compare new information I've discovered to old information I've collected. (Provided I live that long.)

As for tickets, I don’t give them out. In fact, in my own lectures on sourcing,
I give folks that same advice about not getting so uptight
over the citation police.

~ Elizabeth Shown Mills ~

Isn't there room for genealogists of all viewpoints and varying skill levels?

Without question. But Kimberly, I believe part of the responsibility must fall not just to us, but to the newbies as well.

Newbies, what do you want to do with your research? The question of skill/standards will attach directly to your answer. A professional genealogist (for hire) - professional standards, professional education. A non-professional who wants to do professional level research (me on Shades) - professional standards. Girls/Boys just want to have fun blogs (footnoteMaven) and so on and so on - then don't worry about the rest of the world, set your own standard.

Take responsibility for your own skill level. Educate yourself to that level. The online world is filled with classes, tutorials, informative blogs and members of the genealogy blogging community who are more than willing to lend a hand if they are asked. The real world is filled with libraries and societies that go above and beyond the call of duty to encourage and educate.

Please yourself. Life is too short to worry about the standards of others.
Think Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet).

Can't we find a way to educate and encourage without beating people over the head with our genealogy ideals?

I am smart enough to know I don't know everything. And not knowing everything I won't force my standards on anyone else by berating or belittling. Unless you ask me, attack me, or attack my family and friends, then you will get my strong opinions. I have been known to issue ("Cranky Pants Alerts.")

If you have found something useful - share the wealth. Other members of the community can determine if it is useful for them. It will encourage others to share.


We are a community. A community that sees the same personalities online we find in our daily lives. From the "It'll Never Works" to the "Whirling Dervishes." We don't all have the same ideals. We can't control the actions of others.

Really people, would you call anyone "boob," "idiot," "unprofessional," or "misguided" to their face; or be as aggressive as some online encounters with no provocation? You wouldn't have to worry about the Citation Police, you might be meeting the real world police were you to act in this manner.

In the end, I believe we should:

Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with those who're In-Between

Thank you Kimberly for a brilliant framework.