Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Back to Sources

Isn't genealogy all about feeling good about yourself and connecting with your family? If copying a pedigree back to Adam makes me feel good and I'm not hurting anybody in the process, then why should I care if I have sources? What good is a source anyway? They just confuses me and contradict how I think about my ancestors. Anyway, why should I do the work all over myself if I find someone else online that has a common ancestor then we are obviously related and there is nothing wrong with just copying their file and adding it to my own. Really, all I am looking for is a lot a names anyway and I now have over 100,000 names in my file. I just found another relative on and by adding in his file, I can get another 30,000 or so names. I may easily have one of the largest pedigrees in entire genealogical community. Just wait until tell my friends back at the RV Park about my file.

No, I have not gone over to the darkside. I am merely characterizing a whole sub-culture of so-called genealogists who collect names rather than do research. Their idea of success deals with the number of individuals in their file. The larger the number, obviously, the more successful they can appear. I know I am talking to one of these people when the first question they ask me when they find out I am interested in genealogy, is how many names I have in my family file and how far back have I collected family members. So, should I stop mentioning how many names I have in my file?

Back to reality. Why am I so preoccupied with sources? Who really cares anyway? Do I really need to try to convince the name collectors that they need sources? Shouldn't we all just be content with having all the spaces filled in on our pedigree chart, like collecting trading cards and getting a complete set? Then are all of use with large genealogical database files immediately suspect? Do we inadvertently belong to the name gatherers by default as a result of having a large file? Is it true we need to be mindful of the feelings of all genealogists and worry about whether or not our blind emphasis on sources will harm their budding genealogical psyches?

If only genealogy were as simple as the name gatherers would have you believe! As genealogists,we can't even come to a common agreement concerning what we mean by sources, let alone agree on how to record them.

So what is the fundamental idea or goal of genealogy? Are we motivated by the collecting instinct or is there more to the pursuit than an accumulation of names and dates and places?

May I suggest that genealogy, not just name gathering, addresses some of the basic human needs. One of those needs involves belonging to a family and genealogy addresses that need. If we are cast adrift in the modern world by technology and cultural and social changes, then the real anchor in our lives lies in returning to our family. Discovering our family is much more than just a pastime, it is a discovery of what is fundamental in human relationships. None of the superficial TV view of life, but a real involvement in our heritage. Too many people have no heritage because they have no family. Genealogy addresses that need and adds a measure of security.


  1. And, not to say learning how your family fitted in the history of the times in which they lived!