I have a bone to pick with certain folks in the ‘genealogy community’. I feel that if I do not state my piece and stake my claim to my feelings, they will fester and end up effecting my love for genealogy, family history, and ancestry work and I most certainly do not want that to happen, ever! Especially since it is the antithesis of one of the keystone mantras of Onward To Our Past®. So here it is:
I would like open by saying that it is my belief that it is healthy and perfectly acceptable for people to hold differing points of view, to agree to disagree, and openly debate issues and concerns in genealogy, family history, and ancestry work. Plus it is essential to the future health of this passion we share!
Just as our ancestors were individuals, so are we in genealogy!
Lately I have read several items regarding the issue that I describe as ‘getting along in genealogy’. The National Genealogical Society (of which I was a member, but dropped my membership when I felt I was not getting my money’s worth for my dues investment) has published a piece entitled “Genealogy World — Real Life — Can we just all play ‘nicer’ in this sandbox we share” then they followed that up with a post entitled “Toward a More International Genealogy Community”.
The first of these two articles basically called for getting along and used the recent lawsuit by Cyndi’s List as an example. The second called for the willingness to be more accepting as a community. Both laudable goals and good issues to post about.
While the basic premise of these articles was OK, it is when you get into the writing that things began to fall apart for me.
In the first article the blogger rued the law suit that Cyndi brought for copyright infringement against another party in genealogy. Why? I have no idea? If you have been following Cyndi Howells‘ saga on this issue, she first tried every other avenue to resolve this issue. Only when the offending party refused did she have no alternative but to pursue a remedy in the courts. I, for one, say GOOD FOR CYNDI! There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with protecting your copyright! Authors do it all the time! Artists do it all the time! Manufacturers, publications, and media companies do it all the time! Copyright is NOT a dirty word in genealogy anymore than it is to a painter, photographer, or other creator of original work and copyright law needs to be followed by everyone. (Sidebar: Just because something is online does NOT mean it is free for the taking!)
In the second, again the premise sounds fine and I applauded the blogger’s call for ‘Be Open to Feedback’. Imagine my surprise when my feedback post was moderated out of existence and never posted! My comments were on point, they agreed with this point in general, but I did say that this needs to be more than mere lip service. In other words, if you want feedback and call for us to be open, it cannot be a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ proposition. How can you call for being open to feedback then not publish feedback that takes a differing point of view? I do have to say in my heart I was not surprised since I have had earlier experiences with this blogger being downright rude and resorting to name calling when I disagreed with him once before. I guess he views genealogy as ‘his’ sandbox and as such gets to decide what is ‘right’ and what is not. Sorry, genealogy does not ‘belong’ to anyone or any one group. Not NGS. not the LDS church, not Ancestry.com. Nope, it is open to everyone and everyone’s opinion is equal. You don’t have to agree with it, but you have to allow others to hold their own point of view!
Truly Embrace Diversity of Thought and Point-of-View!
As I have often said to my children, when they would bring me complaints about someone doing something differently, looking different, etc. “there is a reason God made Neapolitan ice cream. Some folks like strawberry. Some like vanilla. Some like chocolate. Some like two and some like all three. There is no right or wrong in this case and life would be very boring if there was only vanilla ice cream”
So it is with genealogy! Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. We can debate, discuss, analyze, etc., but we can also agree to disagree! We do NOT have to all agree on only one point of view. Likewise we need to be open minded and very careful not to allow cognitive dissonance to take over in genealogy and ancestry!
Just as we seek out multiple documents as the very best evidence in our family trees, so we need to seek out multiple points of view on topics, issues, and subjects of importance in genealogy. This means we, as a community, must remain open minded, have open-hearts, be willing to admit if a mistake is made and be open to correcting it. Perhaps most of all as a community we need to agree that on some issues it is healthy to agree to disagree and it is always healthy to our industry and our passion to openly debate issues.
DO NOT FEAR OPEN AND HONEST DEBATE IN GENEALOGY!
In high school and college one of my favorite subjects was debate. I loved it when I learned how to craft a solid ‘argument’ and then present it without it degenerating into an ‘argument’! Of course this was in the days before Facebook and the Internet style of ‘debate’ which seems all too often to be ‘I am free to have my point of view, but I will scream and yell at you if you dare not agree with me.’
There are many topics and subjects we encounter while working on our family history that are open to differing opinions. This is GOOD! This is FINE! This is HEALTHY! There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to many of these issues …. especially when opinion is involved.
- There is NO right or wrong decision as to whether or not you want to test your DNA for genealogy or not.
- If you choose to do DNA testing, there is NO right or wrong decision as to whether or not you share your results.
- Just because we might love and be nuts for genealogy, it is NOT right or wrong for other family members, especially distant cousins to not share this passion.
- There is NO right or wrong answer to whether or not you decide to publicly share your family tree and your family tree work or you prefer to keep it private.
- This is nothing wrong with protecting your original works under copyright.
- There is no right or wrong reason for you to be pursuing your family history, genealogy, and ancestry.
DO AS I DO, NOT JUST AS I SAY — or — Walk your Talk!
Paying lip service to topics of acceptance and diversity of thought is no more than that. It is lip service, nothing more, and it is totally unacceptable! For the health and future of genealogy we must establish that we are an open, honest, transparent community that embraces all points of view.
We certainly have nothing to fear by listening to all points of view. Agree or disagree, it opens the mind.
So I suggest that we try a bit harder to accept that genealogy is Neapolitan, not just plain vanilla! At Onward To Our Past® our mantra is to be welcoming and open! This is one of the reasons the almost 13,000 fans on Facebook and my website are free to post their opinions and viewpoints. It is why we frequently ask for help and input on sticky wickets we encounter. Plus it makes genealogy a whole lot more fun!
Onward To Our Past®!