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This post comes about based on a newspaper article and a blog post I recently read ... one on genealogy and one on cooking ... Genealogy and Elitism: It Isn’t What You Say, It’s How You Say It (by Amy Johnson Crow) and The language of cooking (Andrea Weigl, The News and Observer).
What these articles have in common is reminding us that beginners to anything, whether it’s cooking or genealogy, won’t know all of the “lingo” endemic to these endeavors. We all also need encouragement as we try something new. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t right and wrong ways to do something. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t proper names and techniques for tools and skills needed. It does mean that it’s valuable for each of us to try and remember what it was like to be a beginner at cooking, genealogy, or anything, and use those memories to bring encouragement and guidance to those who are just starting (or want to start) dabbling their toes in doing family history research.
I actually read the cooking article first and she starts out by saying ...
I’ve been writing about food for so long that sometimes I forget what it’s like to be a beginner.
I don’t remember that recipes can seem like a foreign language to an inexperienced home cook. If you have barely picked up a spatula, words like simmer or sear, braise or sauté can stop you before turning on the stove.
I suffered from the same thing when I first became a food writer in 2007...
Then, Amy in her article, shares an incident she witnessed at a library (which is a variation on something similar we’ve probably all witnessed or been a party to) and concludes ...
Scolding can work for employees and children. It doesn’t work to scold someone who is doing an activity that they don’t have to do. After all, they can simply stop doing the activity and move on to something more enjoyable.
When we come across individuals who are interesting in pursuing their family history, let’s remember that much of the lingo, the methodologies and strategies, and other elements that the more experienced in our field use and embrace is totally alien to these newbies.
We also need to remember that we were all “new” at one time or another to genealogy (and to many other things in life)! We were greatly influenced by others – either by their criticism or by their enthusiasm and support.
Think of all the volunteer activities or hobbies you have NOT pursued because the individuals involved were just not fun to “play with.”
Yes, people will say that if you are TRULY interested you will persevere regardless. Really? Can we always say that that is true? Haven’t we each benefited from some benevolence as we try a new pursuit? Haven’t we each turned away from something when encouragement was lacking or we felt discouraged by those around us?
Passion about anything is something that the rest of us don’t have the “right” to squelch in others ... Passion can be molded and guided and it’s darn hard for anyone else to create it in a person. And, once lost, passion is something that can be very hard to regain!
So, next time you hear someone ask a basic genealogy question (and might want to roll your eyes) or misuse or misunderstand a term (and want to promptly and vigorously correct them) think about yourself when you were a beginning cook or genealogist and your journey to where you are today – the time, patience and encouragement of those who assisted along the way was invaluable.
Is there a person who you look back on as the single greatest influence in your success as a genealogist (or cook)? What was it about that person that encouraged and inspired you?
Editor’s Note: If you identify with this post, you might also read If Miss Manners, Emily Post, or other experts on etiquette did genealogy!
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