Two years ago I wrote a blog post entitled “A Hobbyist’s Genealogy Manifesto” (http://brennerfamilytree.org/wp/2014/12/my-genealogy-do-over-manifesto.html). Since I am joining Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do Over, it seemed appropriate to revisit and update my Manifesto. Two years ago my concern was oriented to my passion for genealogy; now my concern is for the quality and integrity of my family history research.
Now, as previously, I approach the topic as a hobbyist, not a professional genealogist. I do, however, understand the uneasiness and apprehensions that professional genealogists must have when any of us hobbyists publish unsourced information and/or draw invalid inferences from the information at hand. While the professionals have standards that relate to their certification, we hobbyists have only the principles and practices by which we informally abide. So, as I anticipate joining all those committed to the Genealogy Do Over, here are the principles, practices, and expectations (goals) that will guide my work:
1. I will explore
I admit that I am a data hunter and gatherer. Sometimes my research has seemed like a feeding frenzy. I intend to make my research more orderly and goal-oriented. This will require me to do two at least things that I haven’t been doing very well — viz., pose more focused research questions and maintain an accurate research log. I have learned that research often uncovers data that conflicts with and/or contradicts previous data. When I find conflicts, I will not be in a hurry to resolve them, but will continue to gather data until I can resolve the conflict. I have found Evidentia to be a useful tool for processing conflicting claims. While I primarily use the internet for finding information that relates to my family lineage, I intend to increase on-site research, as appropriate.
2. I will learn
For me, I expect the Genealogy Do Over to be primarily a learning experience. 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. In addition to participating in the Genealogy Do Over, 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.
3. I will cite
I will provide accurate source citations for published research (in my blog and on my website). If I can’t cite the source, I won’t publish it. I adhere to the Pirates of the Caribbean 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 database, I use RM’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 templates I have developed myself.
4. I will share (both giving and receiving)
Through my blog and the presence of my online family tree, I will continue to share my research and my conclusions with family members as well as other genealogists and family historians. I will also continue to 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. When I discover undocumented “cousin” information, I will use it as clues for further research, but will not add it to primary database or publish it until I van validate it by additional documented research.
5. I will practice and advocate for the highest standards for genealogy and family history
This is my ‘pay it forward’ intention. In addition to learning for myself during he Genealogy Do Over, I realize that I can join with other genealogists who are promoting ‘best practices’ and standards for the field of genealogy. Therefore, when I share findings with my family, when I communicate with new-found “cousins,” when I talk with others who are interested in genealogy and family history… I will try to be a gentle advocate for the best of current practices and procedures. 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. They taught me much by the ways they approached their research. It is my turn now to ‘pay it forward.’
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 (11) and Benjamin (9). To them I am just “PopPop,” not a genealogist or family historian. In the years ahead, 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!
7. I will have fun.
I will approach this genealogical do over with the full intention of having fun. Yes, there will be hard work; yes, there will be frustration; no, it will not move fast enough; I will probably want, at some point, to abandon the process and revert to my already-don, half-validated database; I may question both Thomas MacEntee’s and my sanity at times. In spite of all that, I will stick with the process because I intend to have fun — laughing at my previous attempts to slide unvalidated information in as if it were clearly and obviously true; chuckling to myself when I am able to demonstrate that the results of my genealogy research are more credible; delighted when another brick wall falls. I am ready; let’s begin!