Genealogists: One Big Happy Fightin’ Family

Are arguments good for the genealogy community?

In Harold Henderson’s recent post Is genealogy ready for an argument?, he discusses the need for some ground rules when it comes to “online discussions” within the genealogy community. Harold puts forth some fairly common sense proposals many of which are generally followed in online communities, besides genealogy.

Are You Getting The Entire Story?

I’m sure some of you are wondering “Was there another fight among genealogists?” or “Who is it this time?” and some will roll their eyes and say, “Oh not again!”  Very often in social media and online platforms, members enter into a story timeline at different points and they need to “catch up.” Well here is your DVR for the actual story, from my perspective. I also do this because very often we do this “dance” in the genealogy community where we talk about someone or several people without stating specifics. In this case the discussion/argument was public, in an online space, and real names were used.

The argument took place on Wednesday evening, August 14, 2013 on the TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM-L Archives mailing list which is a public list. The topic was why GenealogyBank does not allow professional researchers to use their product for client research, but instead requires the purchase of a membership for each client (read the entire thread starting here).

I objected to a comment made by Michael Hait in the threaded discussion and I made an honest reply stating that Michael was “being rude and disingenuous.” I stand by my statement and offer no apology. I took exception to this statement made by Michael: “APG is a professional organization, not a discount warehouse for hobby tools.”

Why? Well it had been made clear by Kerry Scott that she had worked to get APG members a 20% discount on GenealogyBank. Some felt that they had been misled since GenealogyBank cannot reasonably be used for client research. I felt, and continue to feel, that Michael’s comment not just denigrated the volunteer work Kerry had done, but also exacerbated the hobby vs. professional schism we see going on in the genealogy community.

As an aside, I didn’t feel the need to be chivalrous and step in to defend Kerry’s character or hard works. She can do that herself, believe me. I stepped in because I too have worked in a volunteer capacity for genealogical societies trying to get those same benefits. I too have encountered genealogy vendors who’ve stated that they won’t work with certain organizations because their members don’t appreciate the discount or realize what it took to secure the discount. Finally, I think it is my analysis of the genealogy market and the dynamics of vendors and genealogy non-profit organizations that also pulled me into this discussion.

Bottom Line: Families Fight. Get Over It.

So now you are fully informed as to what happened with who and where. I don’t think it is unprofessional to call someone out for being rude during an argument. I said it simply and honestly. I didn’t engage in name calling. It didn’t become “personal” as some would characterize it. I did the same thing I’d do at an APG social function or any other genealogy function: I told someone that I felt that they were being rude.

Read the further comments and you’ll see my statements on how the genealogy community insists on doing this big elaborate dance when it comes to discussions and arguments.

I grew up in a family where there were fights. Big, nasty, drag down fights. Things were said that were inappropriate and feelings were hurt. Days or weeks later we would all have a big laugh but we were still a family. I grew up to thrive on that honesty and I use that same honesty in the genealogy community.

When I’m in a discussion you’ll always know how I feel and what I think. I won’t clutch my pearl necklace in a social setting of colleagues, make a veiled statement and then talk about you like a dog once you leave the room. You get it served up right then and there.

Straight shooter, that’s me. Does it get me in “trouble?” Damn right it does. Do I care? Not really.

That’s Me – The Unprofessional Genealogist

Wednesday’s discussion was the last straw for me in terms of my interactions with the so called “professional” genealogy community. I alluded to some changes in my professional genealogy career over on Facebook with a simple “I’m done.” As in put a fork in me, I’m done. As in the temperature gauge popped out of my breast, I’m done. As in, I’ve had enough, I’m done.

So I’ve rescinded my application to become a Certified Genealogist with the Board for Certification of Genealogists. That’s the first step. I don’t think that I’m suited for the BCG program, but I wish them the best of luck since it does seem to work for many.

I’ll also be retooling what I do in the genealogy community and focusing more on my business. I will still offer the same educational content via webinars, e-guides, and other content. I have a different vision of what it is to be a genealogy professional.

For me it comes down to being the most honest person you can be especially in your interactions with others in the community. I’m fine with that being characterized as “unprofessional” and frankly, I’m proud of it.

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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