In a comment to my September 13, 2009 post about collecting names vs. family history, one of the comments named me a "pretentious genealogist" apparently because I "vehemently abhor 'name collectors'." I guess I was also surprised to find out that I was a "self-proclaimed expert" so I went back and re-read my own article. After a review, I did find a few more things to say about name collectors, even the variety claimed by the commentator.
First of all, one symptom of name collecting is a disregard for documenting and sourcing lineage connections. I have no way of knowing if this particular commentator documents his sources or not, but a lack of documentation is an indication that the person has no real interest in the family, at least not enough to find out who they were beyond a mere name. The validity of a lineage is not in the number of ancestors, but in the depth of the understanding of the individuals and families in their historical context. If it is pretentious to document every relationship and every event to the extent possible, I guess I am pretentious.
I am usually quite willing to share my complete files, including all of the current sources, with any interested family member, but I do resent people who then publish the lineage as if it were their own. Usually, it is not too difficult to identify someone who has no idea about the content of their own file, parts of the file are so vastly different than others. A careful documented lineage contains a degree of consistency lacking from a cut and paste genealogy.
I happen to come from a family that has a lot of records, including published family histories and a multitude of researchers. In my initial survey of my family lines, I reviewed hundreds of my predecessor's family group sheets comparing them to determine the accuracy of the prior research and to build a credible family line. If the family sources differed, I began to research original source records to determine a rational basis for extending the line along a certain branch.
I must say that many times I found the claims made by my family members to be unsupported by historical research. I guess to the extent that I built my original family file from the work of others, I too was a "name collector." But, I did not let my search stop there, I continued to research dubious connections in the original records until I was satisfied that the claimed relationships in fact, did exist.
For example, at one point, some of my relatives claimed a relationship to the American frontiersman, Daniel Boone, mainly because his mother was Morgan, one of my family surnames. It didn't take more than a couple of hours of research to disprove that claim. There was no connection between the wife of Squire Boone and my own family. One distinction between a careful researcher and a name collector, is the desire for truth, even at the expense of losing a connection to a famous ancestor. I guess if I prefer truth over a fanciful lineage, I must be a self pro-claimed expert and very pretentious.
The bottom line is simple, I don't believe anything about my family line I can't verify from consistent sources. As long as a fact is unproven, it is a mere allegation.