Thursday, July 12, 2012

Be Kind to the Newbies

It can be hard for us to remember what it was like to be a stranger in the strange land of genealogy. We may think that because we've talked about "abstracting records" 100 times, that the 101st person knows what we're talking about.

And by "us" I mean everybody, from active professionals to those whose main involvement is to attend their local society meetings.

Many local societies are composed of old friends. I once attended a small society meeting with another newcomer. We were invited to introduce ourselves and did so; no one else did, and the meeting went on. It wasn't being mean, just oblivious.

After one talk that I thought had been carefully pitched to beginners, an attendee asked, "What is this DAR you were talking about?"

Professionals can be annoyed or annoying in their own ways. I'm always a bit surprised that some Hoosiers aren't acquainted with the Indiana Genealogical Society's wonderful county-by-county research information pages. Another pet peeve is hearing from folks who want to resolve conflicting information about an ancestor's birth or death date -- without saying where either piece of information came from!

But we all had to learn that sometime; now it's our turn to teach in a friendly way -- forever. Showing irritation is ungracious, bad business practice (for professionals), and just plain counterproductive for the good of genealogy. Just as we are committed to our own continuing education, we have to be committed to providing accessible education for the never-ending stream of hopeful newcomers who may kindly reply "Bless you!" when you first speak the word "Ahenentafel."

Harold Henderson, "Be Kind to the Newbies," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 12 July 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Dorene from Ohio said...

I will never forget how someone graciously explained the grantor and grantee indexes at the County Recorder's Office, and also the way the bride and groom indexes work in the Probate Courts of most Ohio courthouses. Truly I was blessed with patient teachers in my early days of family history research, and I try to show the same patience with newbies!

Harold said...

Thanks, Dorene. You make a point I forgot to mention: just like people, genealogy only gets to make one first impression. And first impressions really stick in our memory!