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

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Attitude - A Cautionary Tale

Sometimes I walk into some real interesting situations. Take today for example, I got to the Mesa Family History Center only a few minutes before I was supposed to teach a class. There was a patron waiting for help at the Reference Desk and as I walked by they asked me if I could help him with some Swedish Records. I said sure. Little did I know that this was going to be one of those situations I should have just said, sorry, but I have to teach a class in ten minutes.

As it turned out, ten minutes was enough for me to get into a very tense situation and a very, very unhappy patron. The cause of the problem: attitude, his not mine. Some background is probably helpful. You might recall (or not if you don't do Swedish research) that purchased the Swedish database provider GenLine. In a highly predictable move, has incorporated Genline into its World Deluxe program. So Genline has ceased to exist as a separate entity. Here was the problem. The patron had a set of numbers from the now non-existent Genline program and he expected someone at the Family History Center to simply plug-in his numbers and print off his genealogy.

Of course, I am caught cold with this since I have not had a Swedish question since the change over. So I looked at what he had written down because we do have a very good and extensive database of Swedish records for free access. But of course the Genline numbers weren't much help. (It turns out as I discovered later after this was all over, the numbers might have worked with the Swedish record search in, but now I will never know). So I asked him where his people were from, explaining that Swedish records are located by a geographic location. So many of the names are similar, that it is important to know the exact location of the family to differentiate similar names.

Asking this question was the wrong thing to do. He immediately decided I didn't know what I was talking about and got very cross looking. He did not want to listen to anything I had to say about locating the records. This was an attitude. I looked at the places he had written down and had the audacity to ask him where his people were from? Not only did he not know, he did not care to know anything about the places. Unfortunately, the two place he had written down were a suburb of Stockholm and a district in the center of Sweden about 300 miles away. I found these places easily on Google and even had maps. This just made him more upset. At this point I had to leave, but found out later that he had previously spent over an hour with one of our other volunteers who had been able to find some of the information he was looking for but had ended the conversation when he stopped and said, "I can see that you can't help me" and left.

Why do I relate this incident other than for purposes of getting it out of my system? Easy. This is a common attitude issue. The attitude is that you go to a Family History Center and they are supposed to give you your family history! Isn't that why they are called Family History Centers? You don't have to do anything yourself of course, because that is why we are paid to do our work (by the way, we aren't paid, every last person in a Family History Center is a volunteer). If you want to talk to paid employees you have to go to Salt Lake.

I could have handled this better by asking him up front exactly what he thought we could do for him and what he expected to leave with. Given what I now know, I might have been able to decipher the numbers he had but not in the time period I had to work with.

I know a lot more than I did when he walked in the door.


  1. In our computer age we've got alot of people who have gotten used to wanting something and they hop on line and very quickly what ever they were searching for is now theirs. Unfortunately "Click & Claim" genealogy seems rampant. His wanting you to hand over his genealogy just seems like another "type" of Click & Claim genealogy. Real research? Why bother when you can do this sort of thing? Sad but true! Too bad they will never know the real thrill of seeing your ancestor in church records or on a long lost census!

  2. No one there gets paid enough to put up with a attitude. Everyone expects everything for free and with only a few click on the computer--poof it will magically appear.

    I volunteer doing Sacramental records and we all spend a lot of time looking through all those old volumes. Honestly, people think everything is digitized.

  3. Well, it gives genealogists in general (and Family History Centers in particular) something to strive for. Just enter your name and date of birth, and all will be revealed :)

    I agree with Karen, that the real thrill is in the research, not in merely collecting sequential names and dates.

  4. Genline is still a separate entity, even though it is owned by I suppose it will be gone eventually, but right now I am a subscriber and I still can get onto Genline.

    There is a place on where the GID numbers (Genline Identification Numbers) can be plugged in to go directly to the correct record. The search has a slot to input the GID number.

    You were the adult in this situation and the man behaved like a spoiled child. I can somewhat understand that he was frustrated, but that doesn't excuse his behavior.

    Obviously someone gave him those GID numbers. He might have been one of the people who is rude on a message board or message list. I provide a great deal of Swedish help (using databases, subscriptions to parish record sites, etc.) in those places. There are people who are grateful and say so. There are people who may or may not be grateful. We don't know because they don't respond after receiving help. Then there are people, such as this man, who are angry because we couldn't find every little thing that they wanted. They want their entire genealogy found in one thread on a message board or list. They think that genealogy is like the tv show "Who Do You Think You Are?" They believe the ads from which say "You don't have to know what you are looking for. You just have to start looking." In his mind, he had started looking, so what was wrong with the people who couldn't help him.

    I'm sorry you had to put up with his rudeness. Usually people are polite to your face but rude when they think they are anonymous (online).