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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why we may be wrong in our approach to genealogical research
An article from the JSTOR Daily website entitled "Have Humans Been in the Americas Longer Than We Thought?" makes an interesting statement:
The study of human migration to the Americas shows that widely held beliefs can be proven wrong.
This statement is made in the context of the revisions that have been made to "accepted" theories about the time depth of human remains in America contradicting current dogma on the subject. This particular subject has interested me for many years and I have been watching as the dates are revised further and further into the past.

In my opinion, along with scientists, genealogists are among the most dogmatic people I know. Of course, there are other dogmatic people, but in this post I am focusing on these two groups.

We all know exactly how genealogical research should be conducted even if our methods vary considerably. What is also interesting about both scientists and genealogists is that they tend to have cadre of experts that try to heavily influence and control the rest of their respective communities. I ran into this when I was finishing up my Masters Thesis at the University of Utah. I had some opinions that clashed with the accepted scientific dogma of the time and was told by one professor in particular that if I followed that line of investigation, I would never get a job with a university in the United States. This is not an extreme example. I have a fairly good contact with the acedemic community today not only from my position on the Brigham Young University Campus, but also because many of my children and their spouses have advanced degrees and four of them are or were professors at major universities. I also taught at the community college level for many years.

As genealogists, we are presently caught in the middle of a huge technological revolution that is directly affecting how and even why we do our research. But there are those who wish to ignore the changes and maintain the comfort zone of "traditional" research methodology. It is not uncommon for me to encounter long-time genealogical research experts who barely know how to use a computer and who are not at all comfortable with online research. Many of them also have limited typing skills. Yet, they are still considered to be leaders and experts in the genealogical community.

For example, neither of the major genealogical certification programs contain any reference to using computers, online research or anything having to do with technology at all. Conceivably, an applicant to either organization could complete the entire process without using a computer except for typing in a word processing program. I was approached not long ago by a person who indicated that they were in the last stages of qualifying for one of the professional certification processes and asked me for help in getting onto a computer and for instructions about how to login to

I am certainly not denigrating the skills outlined and selected by the certification organizations. But I am pointing out that genealogists fall into the same trap as scientists when they ignore or even oppose new discoveries and technological advances. I am sure that there are a large number of genealogists who have a broad understanding of technology and utilize all of the available resources, but currently they are a decided minority.

We are presently in a technological shift in genealogical research that is the functional equivalent of finding 130,000 year old stone implements in America. We are also experiencing the equivalent resistance to those changes as are the scientists who have found the ancient implements.

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