Friday, February 1, 2013

On the Herding of Cats

Many of us have angst about the future and fate of genealogy societies, large and local, professional and otherwise. Are they dissolving in the face of digital change? Or because they and most of their members are too tradition-bound to try anything new (even something as simple as half-hour talks at conferences)?

Certainly times were different when attending a society was almost the only way to connect with fellow aficionados of dead people. But sometimes I am tempted to ask the question the other way around: how is it that any genealogical societies ever came into existence at all?

Genealogists don't usually start out being intensely sociable, and research tends to be solitary. If you don't agree with someone else's research or publication style or demeanor at meetings, it's easy to strike out on your own, 'cause that's where we all started. And it fits into other fissiparous American traditions: Protestant sectarianism, frontiersmen moving on when they could see smoke from another chimney.

It's easier than ever to self-publish and follow no standards other than one's own. I'm not saying that's a good idea. But maybe we should think about what specific endeavors might bring us together, rather than fret and fight about how and why things sometimes seem to be coming apart.

Harold Henderson, "On the Herding of Cats," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 February 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Photo credit: urbanlegend's photostream per Creative Commons.


Connie Sheets said...


Thank you for saying succinctly what I've been thinking for a long time now. Also, for bringing a smile to my face with the title, and forcing me to improve my vocabulary.

Harold said...

Connie -- You're welcome. I always figure it's a good sign when we agree ;) Next question: what specific projects would help? -- Harold

Anne Gillespie Mitchell said...