The following is the article that was recently published on Huffington Post, United Kingdom. It garnered quite a bit of reaction, good and contrary. Fine with me! Its purpose was to get folks thinking. So here it is here for you to read and let me know what you think! I think quality is not elitist, but should be, as Ford used to say ‘Job #1″.
I readily admit to being a bit of a curmudgeon at times. This is especially true when it comes to genealogy. Hence my question: “Where the hell is the quality movement in genealogy?”
You see, from the time I first began my personal genealogy, my overarching goal has always been to accurately and honestly portray my family history, ancestry, and genealogy. I realized and committed to the fact that this would mean this newly found passion of mine would require an investment not only of my time, but also to learn new things, and yes, even, (gasp) spend some money.
It wasn’t long before I came to discover what I call ‘The Great Divide’ in genealogy between those who focus on quality in their work and those who don’t.
I have encountered many pundits screaming the demand that all genealogy MUST be shared, open, and available to all (no, it does not). Funny they never care about the quality of what gets shared. I encountered many others just screaming anything in an effort to simply grow the pool of potential money for themselves. No quality concerns there. I also encountered those experts who were screaming that everything you needed in genealogy was free and online (it is NOT). It is obvious if they think this, they, too, don’t give a care about quality. These are the ‘just do it’ genealogy folks … don’t really care about the quality of the product is, just in get more folks doing it.
I have also encountered those folks in genealogy whose goal seems to be to turn ‘quality genealogy’ into some kind of grandiose, ethereal, almost unattainable undertaking that no mere mortal ever quite hope to be adequate in or achieve. This, I think, must be why there are multiple organizations offering ‘certification’ in a multitude of areas and sub-units of genealogy. I believe it is also why, when you pick up many genealogy articles and/or journals, if you are like me you often tire quite quickly from the fact that you can hardly follow the purpose or theme of the article since more often than not the footnotes are longer than the article and it seems the author has determined that nearly every sentence demands one.
Then I began to encounter those whose job it has become to make money off ‘teaching’ you how to attain quality by such efforts as needed classes in how to decipher the ‘genealogy proof standard’.
Let me note here that the genealogy ‘proof’ standard is simply stated as follows: “A reasonably exhaustive search; complete and accurate source citations; analysis and correlation of the collected information; resolution of any conflicting evidence; and a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion”. There is no reason to think this is actually anything more than common sense. So why do so many seek to drape it in mystery and mythology? Plus other than speaking with someone first hand, there is no ‘proof’ rather there is what I call ‘well documented’ genealogy. We CAN keep quality simple and easy. We really, truly can and should!
Of course you also can’t miss the corporations, such as Ancestry.com, who are simply in the business of volume and numbers and couldn’t really give a rip about quality in family trees. Oh, and before you argue this point, let me just say if they did care they would NOT list ‘other family trees’ as a source for folks to use on their online trees. But like I said, they are just in it for the money and nothing else so I forgive them. Corporations only care about corporations anyway.
Nowhere is there a voice demanding that everyday quality be a part of genealogy. No introduction to quality in creating your family tree. Nope! Better to follow the rule of social media: he who screams loudest gets the most ‘likes’. If you or I didn’t care about quality in our jobs you know what would happen? Indeed, we’d be fired in a New York minute!
Quality in genealogy is NOT an extreme! It should be the norm …. as in normal!
Quality in genealogy need not only exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, cloaked in some atmosphere of ‘certification’ on one end and nonexistent on the other. It can and MUST exist as a middle ground of simply including and teaching documented genealogy as a standard.
The answer really is that easy!