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

Sunday, May 26, 2013

In which I attempt to clarify my earlier remarks and probably fail

My prior posts were not intended to answer the question as to whether family history was actually part of the greater study of genealogy or whether the opposite was true and the greater study is family history. I think they are essentially the same thing depending on your own personal twist on the definition of each. Both terms are emotionally laden and are likely culturally and contextually defined. What I have been writing about is the apparent attempt to put the two terms into an artificial opposition to each other; implying that if you are doing "family history" you can somehow ignore genealogy and vice versa. Attempts to define "family history" without using a reference to activities commonly attributed to genealogy become highly contrived. Similarly, any definition of genealogy that excludes the idea of examining history and particularly "family history" is likewise contrived.

If the term "genealogy" has negative connotations, then let's rehabilitate the term, not abandone the activity by artificially distinguishing between "genealogy" and "family history."

As I read all the comments and blog posts in response to my own posts, I begin to wonder if I am writing in a foreign language. Either my writing is so difficult to understand that no one seems to get what I am saying, or I have taken leave of my senses and been transported to a place where English is not the dominant language. ( I could write in Spanish, maybe that would help?) Many of the comments are directed at my personal views. In that regard, let me list some things that I am not:

1. I am not against expanding the reach, the tent, the coverage, the activity or whatever of genealogy or family history to anyone with any skill level. I am in no way exclusive. I am willing to teach, talk to, educate, assist, help or otherwise hold the hand of anyone whether or not they have ever heard of either genealogy or family history or not. In fact, I have spent the majority of my time trying to get everyone, at every age level, involved in and interested in genealogy and family history. I have taught many classes on compiling journals, taking oral histories and preserving a photographic heritage.

2. I am not down on any age group or experience level whatsoever. I helped raise seven children. I have 31 grandchildren at all age levels. I teach old people, young people, the youth, and children. Any references I make to skill levels, interest or other competency is based on my own experience over the years teaching at both a high school and community college level. My observations on the limitations of today's youth are directed at the poor state of most of the school/educational systems, not at their individual intelligence or ability.

3. I am not anti anything. I am for a lot of things. One of the main things I am for is education at all levels. I am especially interested in educating people about genealogy or family history or whatever term makes you comfortable.

Now, what am I saying? I am saying that you can't and shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. This means, in this context, that those who wish to promote or sell their concept of "family history" should not make it difficult for the people who think they are doing "genealogy" and those who are promoting "genealogy" should not look down their long noses at those who are trying to do "family history." We are both, all of us, together, jointly etc. trying to accomplish the same thing. Maybe we use different terms, maybe we use different methods, but ultimately we want to accomplish the same thing: preserving, explaining, elucidating, expanding upon, discovering, researching, documenting etc. our family history or genealogy.

My comments, for the most part, are not directed to those diligent, educated, persistent researchers of all ages and abilities. They are directed primarily to those who have little or no interest or understanding of either genealogy or family history and think they can accomplish either by denigrating one or the other.

1 comment:

  1. James,

    I want to let you know that this blog post and two other blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!