Friday, April 5, 2013

Follow-Up Friday - Interesting and Helpful Comments on Genea-Musings Posts

It's Follow-Up Friday - time to highlight interesting and useful comments on Genea-Musings posts.  

These were only some of the comments on Dear Randy - Why Does LDS Church Exert So Much Control over Genealogy?, posted 29 March 2013:

*  Heather Rojo commented:  "You have an excellent and thoughtful answer, Randy, to a tough question I have heard many time time before. I don't think anyone has answered it better."

My response:  Thank you, Heather, and others who wrote complimentary comments.  I thought about this for awhile, and decided snarky didn't work, and that patience and encouragement would work.

*  Leah Kleylein noted:  "Just last night I spent a couple hours at a local FHC looking at microfilm. I don't view the church as "controlling" that microfilm - in fact, I'm incredibly grateful that they preserved the information I found on it, and let me look at it at their facility for only a few dollars shipping fee."

My response:  I agree 100% Leah - I went every Saturday for about 15 years to the FHC to read microfilms.  The money saved by renting microfilms is immeasurable.

*  Jen Baldwin's observation:  "I have often fielded questions regarding the LDS interest in genealogy, and since I am not a member, I do my best to leave a positive perspective on their collections and contributions as a whole. I'll probably be using this post as an example from now on. 

"My reaction to TANSTAAFL? We're not just getting a free (or close to free) lunch with these sites, we're sitting at a 24/7 buffet that never ends. Looking forward to my next little tidbit already!"

My response:  That is such a great metaphor, Jen - online genealogy feeds our genealogy research so well - a veritable genealogy cafe of education, records, data and surprises.  

*  Connie Giltz said:  "I too am not a church member, but am very grateful for what they provide and am amazed at the record collection the have for us. And to provide it free when you consider what it takes to maintain databases online and the technical people it takes to main a system to handle the traffic, I am very grateful and instead of complaining I say thank you."

My response:  We all should say it more often to the providers, free and commercial alike.

*  Carmen Johnson noted:  "The only thing that I would add over your excellent explanation is that family research is part of the Mormon religion...I've never experienced any problems when going to a FHL center or the SLC library...they don't see a Mormon but rather someone interested in genealogical research."

My response:  I didn't think of that when I was writing the post -- thanks!

*  Jean Hibben commented:  "And, not that anything needs to be added, I am always overwhelmed by the chairs at the Salt Lake FHL. They have to have cost at least $200 each....and each floor Is filled with them. Whenever I am asked about the cost to rent a film at FHC, I mention that they have to pay for the chairs! (joking, if course)....but the LDS library sure makes it comfortable to work there for hours. Wish we could get some of those chairs in our center...but we'll make up for it in friendliness!"

My response:  You know, I've never noticed the chairs - too concentrated on the records.  I've noticed the friendliness at the FHL and in the FHCs - wonderful, helpful people.

*  Kim opined:  "Randy, you wrote an excellent description of the industry, the LDS connection and their support for everyone's family history. And people obviously need to be informed how the genealogical resources of the LDS are available, free of charge with no proslytizing allowed.

"That said, I have to defend your reader just a bit. No, we can't expect that every record will be digitized, indexed and available for free and are thankful for what the LDS church has done to preserve these records which may have been lost without such action. 

"BUT (and it's a big BUT), the LDS church's actions relating to genealogy or politics are not beyond reproach. One only has to look at the number of times Anne Frank has been baptized posthumously or the church's funding of Prop 8 in our state of California (which many of us have been vocal about this week in hopes of seeing it reversed) to see why someone might be hesitant to trust their motives as purely benevolent. I wonder how many people like "E" have found their own ancestors posthumously baptized despite having no relation to the LDS Church. 

"You are right that There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. In which case, I ask, what are we giving the LDS for all they give for free? When we discuss Google or Facebook's free services, we are quickly reminded that if you aren't paying, you aren't the customer. Why should we blindly believe the LDS to be any different without at least asking the question?

"I know many in the genealogical community who are/may be LDS, and I hope not to offend them, for they are kind, welcoming people and often excellent genealogists. But as many Catholics will tell you, church management does not always represent the hearts of the flock. I can't blame "E" for being suspicious."

My response:    People make mistakes.  Organizations make mistakes.  How long do we remember them?  Is there a statute of limitations when past mistakes are no longer held against them for things that happened a long time ago?  How important are the mistakes?  Do hurt feelings equal the holocaust or slavery?  The LDS Church does not completely control what their members do, whether it's in the family tree, ordinances, or political campaigns.  But people and organizations have ingrained traditions, and practice and promote them.  We can disagree all we want with sacraments and traditions, but they will not be changed quickly.  

I think that we actually pay the LDS church, and their community, to some extent with our dollars for microfilm rentals, travel to Salt Lake City, hotels, businesses, restaurants in Salt Lake City, and copy costs at the FHL.  It's not totally free.  Yes, they benefit from the knowledge and research provided by non-church members, and that's a form of payment.  My impression after many interactions with FamilySearch personnel is that they think the genealogical community is their customer.  It seems to me that it's a beneficial relationship for all of us.

*  Jacqi Stevens offered:  "One thing your reader might not have realized--and I haven't seen addressed here--is the operational facts of life, not of LDS or FamilySearch, but of ad-driven organizations such as Google. Your reader, "E," most likely does a lot of online searching using keywords related to genealogy. Thus, Google is built to serve up ads related to that stated interest. If, however, "E" had spent a lot of time searching online for, say, 'cherry flavored backscratchers,' that is what would show up in the ad feeds on "E's" computer. No sinister plot on behalf of FamilySearch or the LDS. Just the automated way Google and other ad sellers are rigged to work."

My comment:  I had not thought of that as to E's online experience.  I guess I'm oblivious to this... I don't know what E's search capabilities are - they may be minimal.  By the way, I got only one Google hit for "cherry flavored backscratchers" - your comment on my blog post, no ads.  Interestingly, I didn't know that Google picked up blog comments too!  Now there will be two matches.

*  Andy offered:  "Some good info, but you didn't say anything about *why* the LDS is dedicated to genealogy.  Would have been good to include something like a link to this: "

My comment:  Thanks, Andy - you just did!

I think that this sets a record for most comments on a blog post, at least so far in 2013.  It's already one of the most visited Genea-Musings posts for 2013.  

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Becky Thompson said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! For your well-written post, for sharing the comments, and for the excellent information that you put forth. We're grateful for your work, Randy.

Jacqi Stevens said...

No more cherry-flavored backscratchers hits besides ours? Well, not only does that mean no one is selling ads for the things...I guess it also means we can't use it to win a Googlewhacking game, either ;)

Sandra Niedzwiedz-Gray said...

Would you all agree that: "LDS and Google have both provided "FREE" information, and the means to access that information, and that has benefited genealogy research, regardless of their reason, or your perceived reason?"
Ad's or no ad's. Postage on film, because that is what the charge is for. Google IS an a search engine, that is primarily business or ad funded. I have never paid anything to use any of their products. Which, I may ad, they have developed and given usage to anyone, anywhere. Translate, Voice, News, Maps, Earth, Gmail, Alerts, Groups, Goggles, Image search, etc, etc. endless applications. I jokingly said once that I thought Google inventors where Mormon's because everything could be used to help research your ancestors. And usually most of the ads that appear are the ones on the site that you go to. Not the Google search responses. And if there are any, I don't even notice, because that's not where my mind is at. And for the LDS, FHC's. I am and have been a volunteer for 3 years. I volunteer 1 day a week, to help people that come to a center by showing how to use equipment to view the films, how to make copies off the film, how to use one of seven computers available to do research using premium products, that they supply FREE of charge, this includes Ancestry, Fold 3, and the Family History's own records. And, to also help them in how to search. Again, this is a volunteer service. I don't get paid and neither do the other volunteers. We are open 6 days a week. I am a Catholic. So, why do I do it? I love it.

andrewdaft said...

While I don't agree with everything your original email correspondent had to say, I think dismissing the concerns about the political beliefs and the harmful actions of the LDS church which Kim brought up as merely "hurt feelings" is somewhat insulting, though hopefully I am misunderstanding you. And I agree that churches do not necessarily control the actions of their members, but Prop 8, for example (which is a very current topic), was a situation where church leadership provided funding and explicitly urged its members to contribute money to a political cause. It's understandable that those who disagree with the LDS church's actions would be somewhat cautious about their interactions with that church, regardless of the differing opinions of the individual members one might encounter.