Monday, April 28, 2014

READ -- Write -- Publish -- Genealogy

What is the collective noun for a group of writers? This is a question I asked recently on Facebook.

The answer is, a "worship of writers." The term appeared in The Book of St. Albans, published in 1486. The book is said to have been written by Juliana Berners, the prioress of the Priory of St. Mary of Sopwell which is near St. Albans. She was a writer of heraldry, hawking and hunting. Most of the terms described aggregations of animals, but it was not limited to "Beestys and Fowlys," evidenced by other contributions such as an "eloquence of lawyers" and a "flight of stairs."

While you might imagine that a "worship of writers" origin had to do with the readers of books and their obsession with the authors, it is quite the opposite. In the Middle Ages writers needed a patron to survive and therefore would heap flattery on that patron in their writings. Thus, a "worship of writers."

Noreen Alexander Manzella was the first correct answer, and the first answer period. LisaMary Wichowski and Lynne Penniman Carothers also had the correct answer, but they all just "knew" the answer. Wish I was that smart.

There were some very humorous answers. My personal favorite was "Writers' Block" from Jana Sloan Broglin. To write that as a collective noun would be a "block of writers" or a "bloc of writers." Love it!

I have found no one collective noun for a group of genealogists, so let's get our wit working and offer a few for consideration.

I will start with a couple of tree references:
a "stand of genealogists" 
a "thicket of genealogists" 
and a research reference we are all familiar with, a "hoard of genealogists."
Here are a few contributions from Facebook friends.
LisaMary Wichowski - A 'query' of genealogists? (I knew the original answer from James Lipton's lovely book, was especially amused by 'unction of undertakers')
Patricia Brown - A hoven of genealogists
Patricia Brown  -- For the record - I meant "coven". Just looked up hoven and found out it means a "swelling" which could be correct if you are looking at photos of a group if genealogists together. 
Bruce Buzbee -- A body of genealogists 
Charlotte Sellers -- A forest of genealogists ... made up of many trees. 
David Foy -- A citation of genealogists. 
Ellen Rowan Taylor -- An obsession of genealogists. 

Deborah Hart Stock -- A besom of genealogists - because a besom broom is a collection of twigs and branches fastened together, and jumping over such a broom has in the past been one way of contracting a marriage, and thus the potential beginning of a family.
We can always use more, so let's get our wit working, offer a few for consideration.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bonjour, I'm A French Model!

Bonjour! I'm a French model. It must be true, you read it here on the internet. Right? Right. I love the point this State Farm television commercial makes. A point that is relevant to any genealogical research done on the internet. The moral of the story is that you and your work are only as good as your sources.

Who cares, and who should care?

It seems that the "genealogy community" hobbyist, expert, professional discussion is back. Everything old is new again. I gave an example of the discussion as it was in 1887 in an excerpt from a genealogy book I posted here on Facebook. The present discussion made the rounds of the blogs in 2007, and again in 2011. Nothing much has changed since then.

My opinion.

I am a genealogist. We are all genealogists who study or trace our ancestry. All. Period. Some would like to attach a level of competence to the individual person. Those names are, but not limited to, hobbyist, expert, professional, etc. What does any of that mean? We do not have a generally accepted definition of hobbyist, expert, or professional as it applies to the world of genealogy. We all have an opinion as to what the definition should be, but no generally accepted genealogical community definition.

Why don't we label genealogists well-known, known, and unknown. That could also define individual genealogists. Just as meaningful. Many of you will argue that the BCG standards are our guide. But they are only a guide to a genealogist's expertise if that genealogist has voluntarily been tested by those standards. Have you seen a list of those who have tried and failed their standards?

When it comes to the definition of hobbyist, expert or professional work product, we are again faced with no generally accepted definition. We do have standards of genealogical research and presentation of that work. And we do have opinions. So many opinions.

First, let me ask, "Why does it matter so much to you?"

Before you answer, may I say that I think I understand. I have several law degrees. I cringe when I see people online give a legal opinion or legal definition who have zero legal education. Then when I stop gritting my teeth I remember a simple truth. Their opinion is of no value to me. And if you are so quick to accept those opinions without investigating their credentials, shame on you. I am not going to waste my energy turning them in to the bar or the Attorney General for practicing law without a license. And I'm certainly not going to recommend them to anyone seeking legal advice. More importantly, I will investigate and form my own legal opinions.

What about you? You work hard on your genealogical research. You adhere to genealogical standards. Do you feel that your work is diminished by those who have no standards because they too call themselves a genealogist? Their standards are of no value to you and your work, and if you are so quick to accept their conclusions without investigating their sources, shame on you. Don't waste your energy turning them in to the Genealogy Police or the Citation Police. Don't recommend their work. You are only responsible for the standards of your own work.

Now if you want to change the fact that we are only responsible for our own work, come up with a definition, a guide, a standard, a license, a law,  something for levels of expertise! I think you will find it isn't as simple as you thought it would be.

In a 2011 post, Kimberly Powell of Kimberly's Genealogy Blog on asked:

    "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?"

These questions are as important today as when Kimberly Powell first asked them. Can we move on to solutions?

What do you think?

It's not as easy as it looks on TV.

 ~ Rosie O'Donnell ~

Who Do You Think You Are?

Monday, April 7, 2014

How To Write The History Of A Family - 1887

I found this book so interesting that I thought I'd share an excerpt with you.

It is evident the perception of the Genealogist/Family Historian hasn't changed much since 1887.

However, I have always thought that through education programs that set standards for research, writing, and production; and that teach the skill sets necessary to achieve those results, we will improve not only how others view us, but how we view ourselves. Seems my ideas aren't new either.
In this little volume it is scarcely necessary to vindicate the study of genealogy against those who assert that it is but an idle pursuit, for it may be presumed that those only will consult it who are already persuaded of the utility of preserving their family history. The reverence which is almost universally shown toward ancestors is but an extension of the commandment. "Honor thy father and they mother." All races of men seem to possess an instinctive feeling that a line of honorable ancestry is a subject for legitimate pride.

"Who are these graves we know not,
Only know they are our fathers."

But though many affect to jest at what they call "pedigree-hunting" there are few who do not feel more or less interested in knowing something of their own family history, however humble it may be; and that this is so is shown by the increasing number of those who now take some pains to trace it out and place it on permanent record.

Genealogy in the past was chiefly confined to tabular pedigrees, more remarkable for an imposing array of names and titles than for any just claim to be termed history. Still, a few family memorials worthy of the name were compiled as early as the seventeenth century, such for example, as the splendid history of the "Lives of the Berkeleys, written by John Smyth, of Nibley, about the year 1618. The independent family memoir, however, is a product almost exclusively of modern growth and though some valuable examples have been issued in England, it is in the United States that they are most numerous.

The necessity of accuracy and method is specially insisted on, and the reader's attention is drawn to the advantage of uniting the narrative with key-tables by means of a definite system of cross references, a combination which hitherto has been too much neglected by genealogists.

W.P.W. Phillimore, M.A., B.C.L.
How To Write The History of a Family
A Guide for Genealogists