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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Is it easy to do genealogy?

I had a very interesting comment that reminded me of a conversation my friends and I used to have in high school many years ago. The conversation went something like this: is it better to be dumb and happy or smart and unhappy. Variations on that conversation included whether it was better to be rich and unhappy or poor and happy. I have learned over the years that life isn't quite that simple. I would also make the same observation about the following comment:
Quick question: Is it more important to teach people easy but less accurate ways of doing family history (so people will get hooked), or to teach them correctly from the beginning, which may create a barrier for some? In many recent messages, we have been told that family history is easy and something that everyone can do. We have many inaccuracies on the Family Tree, but are these coming from people who are taught "easy" ways of family history, or is there another cause? Anyways, what are your thoughts?
 I guess the more fundamental question is whether or not there is a right way or a "correct" way to teach genealogy? Is there one "correct" way to do genealogy? I think not. There are some principles that help the process of doing research, but the last time I checked there were no "genealogy police" enforcing the correct way. But the pertinent question is why would you teach a "less accurate way" of doing genealogy. Is quick and dirty acceptable?

I suggest that getting people "hooked" by dumbing down genealogy is simply a way to increase the tsunami of poor research already evident in millions of online family trees. What are they getting hooked on anyway? If the proper teaching of genealogy is a "barrier" to some, so be it. Do we really need more poorly done genealogy at the expense of including people who can't or won't do it in an acceptable manner?

Well, the message that family history is easy and something everyone can do is only true at a very, very basic level. I agree that with help, "everyone" can enter information about themselves, their immediate family and perhaps one or two further generations back. There are even exceptions to this rule, where there are circumstances that make finding a parent or grandparent to be difficult if not impossible, but most people can do this minimum amount of data entry with some effort. Is that what we are talking about?

I remember the four and five generation Family Group Sheet challenge from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints some many years ago. For some, this was relatively easy, but for others it was a major challenge. I was of the age where I had to do the sheets myself and not rely on my parents to do theirs. Notwithstanding my family's long time membership in the Church, this turned out to be a major challenge for me. Why was that the case? Simple. Almost all the work done before me had not been done "correctly from the beginning." There were many issues that I had to resolve. Not because I knew more about genealogy (I knew almost nothing at the time) but because I was used to doing research and I could tell when what had been recorded did not make any sense. Even with this background, some of the errors in the original submissions were not corrected for years and years, after I had more extensive experience and checked the dates and places.

I guess the final answer is a question, do we want to accept a mediocre genealogical product? Is inclusion of everyone in genealogy such an important issue that the quality of the work does not matter?

Think about it.

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