In my last post on this subject, I opened the issue by discussing the importance of peer-reviewed journal articles in the genealogical community. Now, it is time to talk about what this means to the average run-of-the-mill genealogists who could care less about what any one with letters after their name thinks about. What is more, what about the average part-time or barely interested genealogist who is unaware of the greater genealogical community at all?
Genealogy is like any other human social organization. There are class distinctions. There are those throughout history who have tried to abolish class distinctions for a variety of reasons. But it seems to be the nature of human society to form classes. These can be based on family, wealth, education, political influence, or whatever, but they exist and we have to deal with them. If we are by chance, birth, education, or wealth, in one class, we might actively resent or even hate those of some other classes. We also cannot deny that, to some extent, this class system exists in genealogy. What is slightly different about genealogy than with social classes in our communities, is that many in the genealogical community are not even aware that these genealogical classes exist. It is only when you claim membership in one of these classes that you become aware that others do not belong to your class and therefore you can begin to make "judgments" about their abilities and especially about their right to "join your class."
In most social classes, there are those that claim to be at the "top" and those who, usually by default, are at the "bottom." In the United States, supposedly a classless society, we have an extremely stratified society based on wealth, race and family. Anyone who believes they belong to the "high society" in their community can always find someone with more wealth or position that makes them feel inferior. Such is the nature of genealogy also.
There are those who, for a variety of reasons, consider themselves to be part of the exclusive, genealogical equivalent of high society. There are others who are not aware, of course, that these people exist or that there is anything like societal classes in genealogy.
When we use a term such as "name chasers" we are, in effect, creating a class and putting ourselves into the class of those who are not "name chasers." What we generally mean by using such a term is that the person is less educated about the "correct" genealogical procedures than we are. Labels are not usually helpful in eradicating class differences.
Even if the class considers itself to be "beneficial" and is attempting to help those not in the class to gain entry, the very act of defining the lower class, creates a problem.
OK, now can we, as genealogists, try to minimize the underlying class distinctions? Umm. It might work and it might not. In some cases, acknowledging that there are such distinctions is helpful but sometimes it only engenders resentment and class warfare. Sometimes we cannot change our "class" because we lack the opportunity to do so. I would suggest that we make sure we have established ways for people to move from one class to another in genealogy, if they become aware and wish to do so.
From one standpoint, bloggers are classless and very inclusive. From another standpoint, they are undisciplined rabble who are not worthy of consideration. There is no real distinction between methodology and name chasing, the only difference is that of a level of education and sophistication concerning research techniques and objectives. Who in the genealogical community is at the top and can dictate what is and what is not "valid genealogy?" Who is the ultimate role model? Do we want to have a more rigid class system or not? Let's think about that before we give labels to classes of genealogists.