Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Abominable Snowman of Genealogy

If I can believe recent blog posts, there are four kinds of people involved in genealogy (organized from the largest to the smallest in numbers, as I suspect):

(1) Those who don't care about keeping track of how they know what they know about their ancestors (AKA citing their sources);

(2) Those who do care, but claim to be constantly annoyed by "genealogy police" or citation cultists who abuse them for misplacing commas or other trivial offenses;

(3) Those who do care and who don't mind learning more, even if the teacher were to have an attitude; and

(4) The Abominable Snowmen of Genealogy, i.e., the aforementioned "genealogy police" or citation cultists who berate members of the other three groups in uncivil ways, and actually may drive members of group #2 in the direction of group #1.

I know that group #1 exists because they have blogged and commented. I know that group #2 exists because they have blogged, and because people I respect and trust have talked to a bunch of them. And I know that group #3 exists because I'm a member of it.

I am in search of evidence that group #4 exists. I have never met such a person, and in more than three years of participation on the listservs of the Association of Professional Genealogists and the Transitional Genealogists Forum, I don't recall having seen one in operation. (My memory could be faulty, hence this post.) No blog or commenter that I have linked to above offers any quotation, or names any name; only one claims to have been contacted by a member of group #4.

Please feel free to educate me by offering actual evidence of the existence of group #4 by citing examples of their obnoxious behavior. My primary purpose is selfish: as a member of group #3, I would like to behave in such a way as not to be mistaken for group #4. My secondary purpose is social history research: I have an alternative hypothesis as to why people might think there is a group #4 even if there isn't.

If you name names, I won't pass them along. If you don't want to comment in the comments, email me at hhsh AT earthlink DOT net. I do aim to report in a generic way later on, whatever the results may be. Thanks!

Oh yes -- and if I should be strangled later today by an Abominable Snowman, feel free to draw your own conclusions ;-)


Kerry Scott said...

I tweeted and Facebooked (is that a word?) this post. I'll be curious to see what sort of response you get.

Harold Henderson said...

Thanks, Kerry!

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

I'm sending you a comment via email....

Anonymous said...

Harold, I think your categories are off and, although I don't have to justify anything to you either, I am not Category 1.

Greta Koehl said...

I haven't met representatives of group #4, either, but a genealogy fairy may be looking out for me and seeing to it that I only encounter kind and helpful people. I have, however, met a couple of their counterparts in other disciplines, so I would have to guess that a few of them might actually exist in genealogy.

Pattie said...

You might want to check out this blog by Clue Wagon about citations:



Sheryl Trudgian Jones said...

Oh, I hope I am not a member of category 4.....I know I am a stickler for not putting down anything as a fact about my ancestors without 2 or 3 independent sources agreeing with the data....and internally I hate when someone has asked me to join in on developing a family tree and then discover that most of the information is without reliable validation and that someone in the group has added the wrong child, or spouse, or country of origin to an individual and that when asked where the information came from the answer is "My great aunt told me this was true so it must be true. I try to be very polite and tell the offender about the 2-3 source rule that I use and then give examples of where not using this rule created havoc in my own geneology search and I don't care about punctuation in citing sources...but I do withdraw my name from the family tree construction when I know lots of the material posted is incorrect. Please tell me I am a 3 not a 4.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, Sheryl, there are no groups. Just people and relationships. By the time you're believing in 'groups' your mind's gone so narrow there's no hope of understanding complex human interactions.

Joan Miller said...

As I mentioned on Kerry's post on this topic, my philosophy is good, better, best.

We all strive to do our best but start out as 'good' and become 'better' along the way to 'best'.

I don't think the categories are as clear. For example, most of the time I'm in category 3 although I don't want to learn from someone with attitude. Why would we want to?

A kind, gentle approach to education is the key. I suggest using a toastmasters approach which is sharing what they are doing well and offering constructive suggestions for improvement and finish off with what they are doing well. We can offer suggestions that provide >concrete examples< for others to follow.

Most newbies simply don't know how to do it better because they haven't been exposed to better or best yet.

Using this approach, there is a greater likelihood that individuals will grow and implement changes as they move from good to better to best practices.