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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Genealogy is not a competition sport

Several years ago in a previous post, I made the observation that genealogy is not a competition sport. At the time, the comment was made in a discussion about the common question I hear concerning the number of people in my genealogy file. In genealogy, the person with the most names does not win anything. By adding names from other online family trees, I suppose I could amass hundreds of thousands of names. The reality of trying to work with such large numbers is more than overwhelming, it is virtually impossible.

When reporting about genealogical activities, news stories commonly mention the number of people found or the number accumulated. Historically, the number of names indicated the time involved in doing research and was an external indication of effort. In today's electronically based world, the number of names in a particular file is meaningless. For example, I work with the Family Tree. How many "names" do I have in my file? 1.2 billion? Well, in reality, yes. I am working with a unified family tree program and I do have about 1.2 billion names to work with. How many of these am I related to? In a real sense, potentially, all of them. So what? The next time someone asks me that question, I now know the answer: 1.2 billion.

In finding one name to add to my family tree, I may expend more effort and be more successful than someone who adds thousands. How do we measure success in genealogy? I suggest that we should be more focused on quality than quantity. I further suggest that we focus on the accuracy of the work rather than the most remote ancestor located. Of course, that reference is to the second most common question that asks how far back I have traced my ancestry. There are still people who are impressed with long lines even when they are pure fantasy.

If there is some human activity, someone will figure out a way to make it into a competitive sport. I used to be very much involved in rock climbing. Now, it is going to be an Olympic sport. I did it for the challenge and the exercise. I would probably have stopped if I had guessed that it would one day be a competitive sport. I would probably stop doing my genealogy also if I really believed that I was involved in some sort of competition. I am attracted to genealogy because it is not a competitive sport.

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