29 November 2012

Drive-by genealogists should learn a few rules

Source: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~clermontcountyohio/genwwork.gif  

Sharon Tate Moody posted an article with this provocative title in the Tampa Tribune recently ...

She states ...

The genealogy world is cluttered with materials that purport to be the writers' family histories. Too many of them are nothing more than lists of people with unproven dates of birth, death and marriage, and in many cases the people on the list aren't even related.

The individuals who created those lists are the same ones who believe the television ads about how easy it is to click on a few links and find your entire family. People who believe those ads are sort of the joy riders of genealogy: They steal the family car and have a grand old time for the weekend, racing around the Internet and leaving a mess for someone else to clean up on Monday morning...

Read the full article.  And, as always, read the comments!  A really neat feature of the blog format are the comments posted by others, whether they agree or disagree they are often entertaining and frequently enlightening.

And, since this post, there has been a “response” post from another genealogist, Amy Coffin, titled Time to Pop a Cap in the Term "Drive-by Genealogist"

Today I read an article about “drive-by genealogists.” Apparently this is a label now.

My issue isn’t necessarily with this article in particular; it’s the message in it that I keep seeing. This piece just happened to be the last place I saw it.

There’s a baffling backlash toward those just discovering their interest in family history. I don’t believe anyone is anti-newbie, but there’s this bizarre assumption that their first efforts are automatically flawed.

Beginners are barely in the door of the Church of Genealogy and we have people telling them they’re not good enough to be here...

Again, do read the full article.

What are your thoughts?  I think it’s a really tough situation.  We were all newbies once and we did get better with time and guidance.  On the other hand, it is frustrating to have a lot of not-documented information out there that then gets repeated ad nauseum!  Though, it is typically easy-enough to quickly tell if some online information is substantive or not and move on ...

Dare you weigh in on this?  Happy to hear your thoughts!

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  1. The message I received from the column was useful advice about evidence analysis, and how it can assist all genealogical practitioners to produce quality results. I read the opening lines as simply setting the stage for the evidence analysis context. Surprisely, some read it as a criticism of less experienced practitioners; some even read it as a message of "newcomers not wanted." A different response is at http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com/2012/11/misteaks.html. By the way, the column headline was added by newspaper staff, not by the author.

  2. Dear Myrtle has also posted a response on her blog, http://blog.dearmyrtle.com/2012/11/the-proof-is-in-pudding.html

  3. Just because their content is questionable doesn't mean it's not valuable. I've found that "wrong" tree information can give me two advantages - where not to go and clues to what might be. And sometimes a tree full of "wrong" info has that gem or two I need.

    New or inexperienced (or even experienced with the wrong data) genealogists still have something we don't not have - access to their family memories through channels that are new. They just might have those clues needed to connect something that hasn't been connected.

    The bigger issue seems to be - how do we get the conversation started to correct it? Anyone can make a mistake or see something that's not "quite" there. It's sure nice when someone else tells me that I missed something or flat got it wrong - it usually leads to "aha" moments.

    I remember years ago trying to get a "sanctified" tree corrected at the FH Center. No discussion was allowed. But that's changed a lot and for the better. But it did remain there for years to lead others astray. It had taken me hours of work to find that what I relied on was bad. But that also allowed me to find the sources to show why - and move on. It ended up being worth it.

    I'm now dealing with early Norwegian sources - bad handwriting, no indexes, scanning page by page. It's easy to "see" what I want to see, especially after hours of looking at them. I might miss the right record because I was tired and find a "wrong" record because I was even more tired. I really appreciate the people who will let me know rather than just go humph - he must be new - look at this foolish amateur mistake!

    A rousing thanks to everyone who contacts "newbies" and says "Have you considered . . ."

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tony! You bring up some excellent points ... we all hold different pieces to the puzzle and any new pieces are always welcome!

  5. Ms. Moody's comment about requiring a license to post stuff on the internet or in print, while an off-hand comment, is obviously laughable, and such an endeavor would be the mother of all attempts to heard cats. Plus while we may lament the lack of standards by the vast majority of genealogical "researchers", they are the ones who give clout to attempts by the NGS, FGS and other organizations to put forth the interests of genealogists in political matters like archives closings/hours and restrictions on public records access.

    What I have more of a problem with is not folks who grab the unsourced and poorly done work of others, but rather those same folks grabbing the work of serious researchers without attribution, thus making such good genealogy proofs and citations seem to be their own. I have had a couple people grab short articles off my website dealing with my analysis of various sources, and then post same in the stories section of an Acom tree without attribution. While I can't keep them from grabbing an image of a source I post, or likely even my transcription, I can keep them from doing so with my analysis without my permission. And I have sent a couple DMCA takedown notices to those people which they complied with to avoid my taking it to Acom and insisting that they delete it.