Jan 092012

There has been a very interesting discussion happening among a number of geneabloggers over recent weeks regarding the nature of the “genealogy community.”  Two recent posts –  Geneabrarian’s “Eliminating the Hobby from Genealogy”  and Greta Koehl’s “Genealogy: A Trivial Pursuit”  (see also, Greta’s post, “Why I Want to Remain an Amateur”)  have raised questions that I need to answer for myself – namely, How? And Why? do I pursue genealogy with such passion?

While I am not a professional genealogist, I do understand the uneasiness and apprehensions that professional genealogists must have when any of us hobbists publish unsourced information and/or invalid inferences drawn from the information.  While the professionals have standards that relate to their certification, we hobbists have only the principles and practices by which we informally abide. Here are mine:

1. I will explore
Sometimes my explorations will be orderly and goal-oriented; sometimes, more like a feeding frenzy.  I am a data hunter and gather.  I will not reject any data that is pertinent to my family lines, even if that data conflicts with and/or contradicts previous data.  When I find a conflict, I will continue to gather data until I can reasonably resolve that conflict.  While I primarily use the internet for finding information that relates to my family lineage, I know that on-site research is sometimes necessary.

2. I will share (both giving and receiving)
Through my blog and the presence of my online family tree, I will share my research and my conclusions with family members as well as other genealogists and family historians.  I will also gather and share data with “cousins” who are also researching any of my family lines.  Where possible I will be in contact with those “cousins” to determine the sources and validity of their information; and I will share with them the sources of my information.  While I will not publish undocumented “cousin” information as if it were established (validated), I will use such information as clues for further research. 

3. I will cite
Insofar as possible, I will provide accurate source citations for published research (in my blog and on my website).  I adhere to the Pirates of the Carribean philosophy of citation – that is, they are not so much ‘laws’ (to be slavishly followed) as they are ‘guidelines’ to assist us (see my previous blog post).   When entering information in my RootsMagic 5 database, I use RM5’s built-in citation templates.  When entering data in Research Wiki or my online database, I use E. S. Mills’ Evidence Explained as a guide, as well as templates I have downloaded from Pro Genealogist’s website and others, and templates I have developed myself.

4. I will learn
I know that I will continue to make mistakes in my research, in organizing my information, in making inferences and drawing conclusions, in citing sources, and in transferring data.  I will, therefore, not only strive to correct such mistakes but will also seek to learn so as not to repeat them.  When others point out mistakes I have made, I will accept their insights and wisdom with grace.  I will admit mistakes when I am aware of them and then correct them to the best of my ability.  I will continue to learn more about standard processes and protocols by reading genealogy blogs, attending genealogy workshops and conferences, participating in online study groups and webinars, and/or engaging in formal courses of study.

5. I will stay connected
My entrance into the world of genealogy was heralded by the gracious gift of Dana Jack Bode, a 1st cousin once removed, and enhanced by the gift of former brother-in-law, John Boyer.  Those gifts taught me the importance of connections within the family.  My contact with other geneabloggers and internet searchers have confirmed the importance of staying connected with other genealogists and family historians.  Most importantly, my genealogy is a joint project with my son, Russell.  He is the webmaster and IT manager of our project; I am the field researcher and data manager.  I can’t conceive of doing genealogy or family history without staying connected.

6. I will operate with integrity
Wikipedia defines “integrity” as “a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes.”

Elizabeth Shown Mills, in a comment on “Eliminating the Hobby from Genealogy,” suggests that genealogy is “not a game of solitaire or an afternoon of knitting in which our screw-ups can be quickly unraveled with no affect on others.  As in all research fields, most genealogical screw-ups – all those wrong conclusions – can be prevented by following the standards and practices that create reliability.”

I hold myself accountable for my genealogical research by remembering my two grandchildren – Olivia (7) and Benjamin (5). To them I am just “PopPop,” not a genealogist or family historian. In 20 or 30 years, I hope they will entertain some fascination with our family’s history… and when they do, I want them to have the best records that I can leave. One of the ways I ensure such a legacy is to commit myself and my genealogical endeavors to a consistency that embraces “the standards and practices that create reliability.” To that end, I commit!

  14 Responses to “A Hobbyist’s Genealogy Manifesto”

  1. I do both personal research and paid research, and in both capacities I congratulate you on your approach to genealogy. The principles and practices that you follow do you credit. Over the years I have met a few "professional" genealogists who did not live up to those standards, and many "hobbyists" who do. We all have different goals and different approaches, but we should all try to do the best job we can. Your post reminds us of that. Thank you! (P.S. – I love your illustrations too!)

  2. "Pirates of the Carribean philosophy of citation"…I love it! You're my role model!

  3. I love this!

  4. Another sensible post from someone who takes a professional approach to his research.

    Thanks, Bart, may I adopt your manifesto?

  5. Thanks for sharing. This is beautiful!

  6. Not just an excellent manifesto, but a great model for genealogy resolutions! And I love the inclusion of "integrity" (a word I use often when I have to fight for quality in my profession (which is not genealogy)).

  7. This is an excellent post and a great model for research in all fields. Thank you

  8. What a wonderful post. I have been alerted to this blog via Genimates. I think you manifesto says it all.

  9. Thanks, all, for you comments. This was an interesting post to write… and "fun" when it was done. You might give it a try for yourself.

  10. Nicely summarised and a guide to us all Thanks

  11. Thank you, Bart. I would like to think my approach follows your course. My grandkids are 7 and 4, and I want them to have the same things. Thanks, again, for sharing. I'll add 'neat' on the graphics, as well! ;-)

  12. What a great manifesto and post! As one who has only recently "stepped out of my comfort zone" in to the genealogy world, you have summarized exactly the principles and intentions I hope to follow. Thanks…

  13. Thumbs up to this great post!

  14. Very nice summary of what we all should be striving toward.

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