Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Interesting Q&A with FamilySearch Leaders

James Tanner, who writes the excellent Genealogy's Star blog, was one of the smartest, fastest and most prolific genea-bloggers at last week's RootsTech Conference

One of his posts on Saturday was RootsTech -- Devotional with Elder Richard G. Scott.  I skipped right past it in my Google Reader (since James only permits a few lines of his post to be shown in the RSS feed) since I'm not particular interested in LDS church information.  Bad decision...

The post was a summary of the Question and Answer session, with Elder Scott and a panel that included David Rencher, Craig Miller, Ransom Love, Jim Greene, all from FamilySearch. Introductions and opening was by CEO Jay Verkler.  All of them are high powered, knowledgeable leaders who are driving FamilySearch into the 21st century.

I urge all readers to check out James Tanner's post for more information.  My impression is that James took notes on his laptop and crafted them into this post soon after the event (the time stamp is 12:14 PM on 12 February).  I appreciate his note taking skills! 

By far the most intriguing, and potentially disturbing, question and answer I saw was this one:

"What is the balance between involving everyone and being genealogically sound?

"David Rencher. FamilySearch is trying to change the entire way that people in the Church do family history. They are not going in the direction of the academic genealogists."

I hope that David Rencher, or someone from FamilySearch, can expand on this answer.  The comments I have are:

*  Does this imply that Church people do not pursue "academic genealogy" presently?

*  What is an "academic genealogist?" To me, it is a genealogist that writes and/or edits well-sourced, peer-reviewed journal articles and books (e.g., Elizabeth Shown Mills, Thomas W. Jones, etc.).  Many "academic genealogists" live in the technology world while they live in the more traditional genealogy world.  The worlds are not mutually exclusive.

*  Does the "going in the direction of the academic genealogists" phrase mean that FamilySearch will not be sticklers for Evidence! Explained quality source citations? 

The latter point is what makes the most sense to me - they may encourage complete source citations, but may accept less than EE-quality citations in the spirit of pursuing research and not turning off submitters with less-than-perfect citations.  It may be that, in the wiki-like environment that FamilySearch has indicated will be used in the new Family Tree, footnote mavens and source gurus will edit sources into EE-quality citations.

Thank you, James Tanner, for the Q&A summary.  I think we'll be discussing these issue for awhile.


Mike Gelinas said...

Thanks very much for this interesting post. The separation of genealogical Church and State is really interesting. Like you, I see no flaw in pursuing so-called "academic genealogy."

Isn't all genealogy academic?

Greta Koehl said...

I saw that sentence, too, and wondered the same thing. I like the idea of being inclusive and encouraging participation, but there should be standards and ideal qualities to strive toward.

James Tanner said...

I think the term "academic genealogy" actually came out of my head as an explanation of the contrast to what they were talking about. Sorry if this causes any concerns. What I meant was that they were contrasting the search for information by researchers with no background in genealogy to those who had an educated background in genealogy. FamilySearch wants to accommodate the entire spectrum of experience. I think this particular presentation will be online sometime.

Anonymous said...

I hate to break this to the world but...

Elizabeth Shown Mills is not the goddess of sourcing.

Perfectly good academic sourcing can be, and is being, done without ever using Evidence Explained.

As long as a source citation lets me find it so I can see it for myself then it has served its purpose.

What will be interesting to see is if all those using "EE-Quality" sourcing will be changing it when the next source guru comes along- just as the Lackey sources were changed to meet the Mills standard.

Andy Hatchett

Geolover said...

Thank you for highlighting this question. James points out that the phrase 'academic genealogy' was his own. But I believe the intent of the speaker was that newFamilySearch was not going to become evidence-based to the extent of interfering with the site's primary mission as a framework for and records of Ordinance work.

The site does not now facilitate genealogical accuracy, as well described in a Genealogy's Star blog by James just before RootsTech.

What the future holds remains to be seen.