Monday, November 26, 2012

How Can We Communicate "The Right Way?"

Last week, Sharon Tate Moody wrote a genealogy column in the Tampa Bay Online website titled "Drive-by genealogists should learn a few rules."  Be sure to read the comments to Sharon's article.

Several geneabloggers responded to it, including:

*  Debbie Mascot wrote "Grand Theft Genealogy"

*  Amy Coffin wrote "Time to Pop a Cap in the Term 'Drive-by Genealogist'"

*  Sheri Fenley wrote "Ketchup and Thanksgiving, This Is Not A Drive By"

*  Connie Sheets wrote Of Rodney King and Aussie Hats 

*  Harold Henderson wrote "Misteaks"

*  Rorey Cathcart wrote "In Defense of Beginners"

*  Tim Forsythe wrote "The Drive-By Genealogist's Lament"

*  Julie Cahill Tarr wrote "The Path of a Beginner Genealogist"

There were many posts on the Transitional Genealogists Forum mailing list about "Bad Karma,"  "Bad Karma -- Oops," "Bad Karma, Newcomers" and "Dealing with out substandard pasts."  Several of these have many comments in the thread.

There may have been others, also.  If so, please send me the link as a comment to this post and i'll add them to the list above.

My first reaction to the article was similar to Debbie's, Amy's and Sheri's: "I can publish online or in print anything I want and they can't stop me, and woe to those that try."  I didn't like the "joy ride" analogy either... but I got over it in a few minutes.

My second reaction was: "wait a minute, what would someone have to know in order to be qualified for a 'genealogy research license' and demonstrate in order to publish their research in print or on the Internet, that Sharon suggested."  Perhaps someone smarter than I, or braver, could create such a list that could be used by persons applying for a license to the Genealogical Research Licensing Board (GRLB).  [Note, I tried to make an acronym using GRUMBLE but couldn't find all of the right words!]

NOTE:  Tamura Jones commented:  "You get a beginner's license when you pass the Genealogy Research Undergraduate Master Board Licensing Exam :-)"  Excellent!!!  Well done.

My third reaction was to note "there is really a relatively small group of genealogists who are aware of, can apply, and are comfortable with the Genealogical Proof Standard concepts."  They are the people who attend conferences; write books, periodical articles and magazine articles; serve on national boards; are "tuned in" to genealogy trends and media; and so forth.

My fourth reaction was:  "what we have here is a failure to communicate."  In spite of the years of publicizing the Genealogical Proof Standard, and reciting the Source-Information-Evidence mantra, there are still many full or part-time genealogy researchers (and name collectors too) who have no clue about those topics and definitions!  I see them every week at my local genealogy societies, and I'm sure that many of my readers do too.  They may include:

*  beginners who have just started and are enjoying the name collecting and the online research; 
*  veteran researchers who did everything on paper years ago; 
*  they don't go to seminars or conferences; 
*  they don't own Evidence! Explained or cite their sources; 
*  they don't subscribe to or read peer-reviewed journals and periodicals; 
*  they are not professionals in any sense of the term, and don't want to be; 
*  they are the 80% of genealogy society members that enjoy the fellowship, the programs, the classes and doing a bit of research once in awhile;  
*  they are not members of any genealogical society or meeting group;
*  they don't use social media and don't read genealogy blogs or newsletters; 
*  they are probably 95% of the submitters to Ancestry Member Trees and other online tree systems.

The challenge for all of us is to reach these genealogists with educational materials that they can learn from and appreciate.  We need to keep emphasizing the need to cite our sources, to learn how to categorize sources, information and evidence, to critically evaluate evidence, and to draw conclusions, We need to emphasize that this is not just for professionals, but that it really can help everyone to do sound genealogical research.  

How do we expose the "right way" to the teeming masses (the 80%) who haven't heard it, understood it, or cared about it so far?  Only by repetition in all of the communication avenues we have - print and digital magazines; society newsletters, monthly programs, classes and seminars; webinars, videos, podcasts and radio shows; newspaper and periodical columns or articles; blogs and social media.  

When I do my "Doing a Reasonably Exhaustive Search" talk, I ask the attendees if they know what the Genealogical Proof Standard is.  Only a few hands shoot up (more if they've had the handout for more than 10 minutes).  After showing them how to apply the standards for sources, information, evidence and proof using my own research examples, many of them appreciate the information.  Hopefully, they take the handout home and try to apply it to their own research before losing the handout, clicking on the shaky leaf hints, or getting distracted by the latest reality show.

I think that there will always be a segment of the genealogical world that will not adopt the concepts or use the terminology.  Just like there is a significant segment that won't use a computer for whatever reason.  I think that younger generations of genealogists will adopt the concepts and refine them, and carry them on into the future, all the while feasting on the latest record collections on Ancestry and FamilySearch, enjoying the hunt, citing their sources, and reaping the wisdom of this generation.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

UPDATED 27 November, 8 a.m. to include Tim Forsythe's post.
UPDATED 29 November, 10 a.m. to include Julie Tarr's post


Tamura Jones said...

You get a beginner's license when you pass the Genealogy Research Undergraduate Master Board Licensing Exam :-)

Elyse said...


Unknown said...

Randy, nice write-up. Let's not forget that we need to also get the manufacturers of genealogy software, particularly database editors and online tree generators to enforce or at least encourage best practices including the GPS.

Celia Lewis said...

I'd love to see short genealogy articles in the local papers. After all, if they publish daily Astrology, surely they're open to weekly Genealogy tips. Wouldn't you think? Since the ones who might benefit most don't attend conferences, don't join genealogy societies etc.... we have to go out to find them.
Love Tamura's GRUMBLE! And, at 70, I'm not about to spend time and money on any more edjimakashun!

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

I really like Celis'a suggestion. I've done some newspaper submissions. If each us who write a blog, would compose 5 short, appropriate Genealogy Tips, and send them to 1-5 of our local newspapers (especially weeklies that still exist), we all might be VERY surprised how many of them get published.
The key is getting the information where the folks Randy described will see them... not the rest of us that are seeing his posts! ;-)

Julie said...

I spent most of last night writing my own response, but I had so many thoughts running around in my head that I couldn't quite put it together. Other work today prevented me from working on it, but look for it later this week.

You did hit on one important piece that I am such an advocate of--education. But how do we reach those people? And, as I will state in my own post, some don't want to be "reached" and in some ways, while it saddens me, at the same time I think it's okay (more on that in my post).

I try to do my part to help newbies, simply because I was one of them not that long ago and seem to relate to them better. I don't do the lecture route. My professional background is in communications and training and I "teach" through writing (blog, courses, guides, etc.). I'm trying very hard to get back to those roots which I feel I have neglected for the last year or so (to many obligations and health issues can really knock a person down!). But the key is, I don't just want to "teach" others, I want to inspire the ones who really want to pursue their genealogy the right way...inspire them to find creative ways to learn, seek out unusual resources to solve their mystery, and find the confidence to preserve the past and share it for the future.

Sorry for the super-long comment. I think half my blog post ended up in there!!!

But before I conclde I want to thank you for introducing me to two new blogs (sorry to meet them under such circumstances) and I found that a lot of what they said rang true with my garbled draft post.

Unknown said...

Randy, I've posted my response on this subject

Unknown said...

I'm with Tim on this. I know companies make their money off proprietary systems but standardized citation format would be lovely.

And Randy, thanks so much for including me in your round up. I was furious when I read the article. Amy Coffin's post gave vent to me feelings. But I wanted to respond to the thesis rather than just the red meat.

Debbie said...

Thank you for mentioning my blog, Randy! And I agree with you. And think I will go for my GRUMBLE license next.

Julie said...

I finally posted mine yesterday. Feel free to add it to your list.