The tag line on a recent family history promotion entitled "Family History is for Everyone" is "Family history is much more than dates, records, and research." The idea here is apparently to involve a wider audience in the area of family history, which is an extremely laudable goal. But isn't the implication that dates, records and research are not appealing and that these aspects of "family history" need to be downplayed so that it will have a "broader" appeal. This isn't just about avoiding the term "genealogy," this is about how we-who-are-actively-involved are being portrayed.
This promotion goes on to list ten suggested activities. Interestingly, I have done every single one of the suggested activities at some time in my genealogical career and most of the genealogists I know have also done most if not all of the listed activities. Why then are these activities something that is in contrast to the core activities of dates, records and research? These are things we, as genealogists, have been doing all along and I might add, without recognition or an audience. For example, my daughter has had a fabulous family history blog for years and very, very few of the family members, even those who know about it, take the time to even read the stories and look at the photographs.
For example, I have been adding photos, sources and information to FamilySearch.org's Family Tree now for over a year. Unless I go back many generations, I can find no indication that anyone else (other than my one daughter) has even looked at the information online.
Interestingly, none of the suggested activities are directly aimed at finding and identifying your ancestors. How do you move from something such as interviewing family members and sharing their stories online, to finding the identity of unknown family members. How do you interview someone you cannot identify?
Dates, records and research are the engine that drives this family history vehicle, not something that can be ignored. Some of the suggested activities fall into the category of the survey in the research cycle, but other of the activities are things you do after your research has provided names, stories and photos to share. What is missing is the connection between the listed activities and where the information comes from. I fully realize that we can all ride in the car and that we don't all have to be mechanics, but without the mechanics, the car doesn't run.
I acknowledge that I personally have not done everything I could do to involve my family in family history. But it is hard to confront absolute and total indifference. I was talking to some friends I hadn't seen for a while and they politely asked what I had been doing lately, when I mentioned genealogy, they quickly changed the subject and walked away. What are the new, budding family historians going to do when they meet this kind of reaction?
I applaud the effort being made to involve a wider audience in family history, but how are these new family historians going to move on to the next step of research, records and yes, dates? Is this simply a public relations problem? Or is there something more to genealogy than meets the eye here?