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.
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 About.com 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?