Can we avoid dumbing down genealogy?
Do you think we can avoid any further dumbing down genealogy, please? I am torn about this. Part of me thinks I should just say ‘to heck with it’ and let anyone do genealogy anyway they want to. But then my passion for genealogy kicks in and I say I have to care when I see what is happening in so many places.
Let me explain:
I imagine this dumbing down of genealogy was inevitable in the Internet age. Fakery everywhere, so much focus on sensationalizing, going ‘viral’, constantly counting who is bigger, better, and yet so little focus on quality. It makes me sad and I would feel I simply have to say we need to fight against this trend tooth and nail if we are truly serious about the quality of our ancestry, the lives of our ancestors, and our genealogy work.
First there is the current fad of the infographic. These are often accompanied by a headline something akin to “EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW IN ONE INFOGRAHIC!” Recently there was one such diagram purporting to show what each country in Europe was ‘best at’. As you might imagine they listed beer for the Czech Republic, thereby reinforcing the stereotype that the only thing to come out of the Czech Republic is beer. It is all too sad that some folks will look at these and decide they portray the whole truth and nothing but the truth – after all it said “everything you need to know”. Another of my least favorites was the recent infographic that supposedly showed where immigrants came from in each State in the U.S. Sorry, but it was a joke again! And while I am on it, how about the infographic that showed what they billed as the ‘native names’ for the cities, states, and towns across the U.S.? Only when you investigated this infographic it turns out some marketing firm simply made that mess up!
Second, I get saddened when I find statements such as ‘all surnames in England come from three categories’. First there is far more to the United Kingdom than England and no there are more than three sources of surnames.
Third, how about the awful statement that ‘everything for genealogy is online’. No, far more is off line. Far, far, far more! Woe to the person who believes the totality of what they need is online.
Fourth, I can hardly even speak about the folks who decide not to work on their genealogy at all and simply jump into DNA testing and build their ‘family tree’ from there alone. If one more person contacts me insisting we are cousins based on some tiny percentage of a DNA match I am going to scream!
Then there is Facebook. A fine social media business. I admit to enjoying it a great deal, except every so often when it comes to genealogy. The groups, pages, etc. are fine, but all it takes is a bit of time following some and you see the glaring deficiencies. More often than not the posts are not focused on learning how to do something, but on telling others to do it for these people. ‘Find me a marriage license.’ Get me a map.’ ‘Translate this.’ It is too bad that so many folks are focused on their genealogy as some kind of race and not something to learn about and learn to do yourself. When did genealogy become a 100 meter dash to the finish and not a marathon that requires pace and time? I guess it just fits into the culture of immediate gratification and some folks’ view that it is simply easier to have others do their work for them than learn to do it themselves. This ‘do it for me’ attitude could also be an offshoot of all the popular television shows that do the same – show other people doing the genealogy work for someone, which I admit is the reason I do not watch genealogy shows. I love to do genealogy, I hate to watch it.
While I am on it, there is another dumbing down I have been seeing more and more on the Internet lately. This has to do with genealogy organizations so intent on posting ‘something’ and often that they have taken to posting most anything. Recently I found what I had thought was a well-respected genealogy society and they were posting links to Wikipedia as genealogy source material. I am sorry, but with all the absolutely amazing and marvelous resources out there, why are they simply posting some link to secondary material and not something original or primary? It was very disappointing and certainly knocked this organization down a peg or two in my estimation. It might be just me, but I would certainly rather read one quality post than multiple mediocre ones from watered down secondary or tertiary sources.
I hope this dumbing down of genealogy is just a passing fad, but I have my doubts. What do you think?
Onward To Our Past