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APG Mailing List Meltdown – Are You Really Being Served?

apg mailing list

If you are member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and you’ve had the “pleasure” of subscribing to the APG Mailing List and have done so for some time, then you already know about the problem: having meaningful posts hijacked by a select group of users with a personal agenda advocating an extreme view of licensing and “genealogy professionalism.”

The APG Mailing List Problem

I’ve been a member of APG for several years and my frustration with the mailing list and the lack of leadership by APG has come to its boiling point.  Yes, there are mailing list moderators, but their actions are ineffective, perhaps due to the structure of their duties.

In essence, the moderators have created a de facto unmoderated forum where for years two individuals have successfully overtaken the list with their repetitive statements related to their agenda.

Tolerating a Polluted Channel

What if you had a television, but on one channel, the programming was inconsistent? And let’s say this channel is one for which you provide money each year in support of its programming. You enjoy watching most of the shows and feel they have value. But lately, every show seems to devolve into the same theme: a theme that provides little interest to you and one that has nothing new to say.

You contact the station, but their “rules” for effecting change are self-serving and rules that only help to maintain the status quo. They ask that you not discuss programming issues publicly either by confronting the propagandists directly or by voicing your opinion publicly. The “code of conduct” for programmers is structured in such a way that domination by one or two persons is not only tolerated, but permitted. In fact, speaking out publicly is a violation of the “code.”

So what are your options? Get up and change the channel? Ignore the problem, as many urge you to do and as the station seems to do? Or be steadfast and ask for change?

Why The APG Mailing List Matters and Why Change Is Needed

Change is needed now. I want to get the most out of my APG membership and all its channels, but I’ve basically been told that one channel can be frustrating and ineffective but that this is a tolerated nuisance. “It’s always been this way . . .”

Nonsense.  I don’t wait for any organization or anyone for “permission” to create change. I believe the opportunity to bring about change does not emerge out of the status quo. This means sometimes you have to say that the emperor has no clothes and you have to do it out on the streets, publicly, so others can hear.

If you are an APG member, I’m asking you to do what I’ve done: demand change and reclaim what is rightfully yours as a paying member of the organization. Do not be afraid to voice your opinion or to “add fuel to the fire” as so many people have told me via offline emails. Don’t tolerate a Fight Club mentality where “the first rule of the APG Mailing List is that you don’t talk about the APG Mailing List.” Such behavior is abusive and the sure sign of a dysfunctional organization.

Yes “genealogy professionalism” discussions have their place. However, this doesn’t mean that almost any and every message on the APG Mailing List should be hijacked to include such a discussion.

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee 

18 thoughts on “APG Mailing List Meltdown – Are You Really Being Served?

  1. Agreed. I value the organization, and I value the people who contribute to the mailing list. However, because of the reputation that it has and the conversations that pop up occasionally I’ve posted there exactly one time (and that was actually a response to a post about Quaker materials and records.) It goes back to my mantra and fight song… The field of genealogy is a nice big playground. Everyone is welcome in the sandbox. There has to be a way that we can build each other up with out tearing each other day or causing distractions via chaos.

  2. I’ve been a member of more than one professional society. When a major center of discussion is professionalism, it’s been my experience that there’s a lack of it in the conduct of many people involved in the discussion. I’m not an APG member, and this post would certainly give me pause before I would plunk down cash to join. Hope it gets better soon.

  3. As a relatively new APG member (less than a year), I’m still sort of stunned by how often the topic of “What is a professional?” comes up. If the professional organization doesn’t know, then who does? I originally joined APG specifically to have access to the mailing list. Will I renew next year? Maybe. Like you, I find many of the discussions to be iterations of past discussions, most of which I’ve seen on other lists. Mostly I just ignore them, and sift out the messages that I find interesting, which include announcement of new content on the APG site, or information about research resources. Is the list useful to me? Some. More than other lists? Probably not. Worth the membership dues? No, but the some of the website content is, and it’s nice to see what “professional” genealogists are talking about, even if the content tends to be similar to what “transitional” or “amateur” genealogists like myself are talking about.

  4. It seems strange to me that the two individuals to whom you refer, the very ones promoting “professionalism,” are two of the most unprofessional individuals I’ve ever had to deal with. Each has openly denigrated fellow genealogists with little, if any, public backlash. The constant barrage of messages concerning their myopic view of “professionalism” is frustrating and annoying. It’s appalling that members of a list designed for professionals would tolerate such behavior, and chide those who refuse to suffer in silence.

  5. I’ve been a member for a number of years and literally just stopped receiving the mailing lists as they were as you describe back in 2005 and 2006 when I first joined. I use the site’s resources and read the publication, perhaps it is time to not renew at the end of this year unless things improve. I sure they are listening.

  6. I have been a member of APG for three years now. For some odd reason, I have never received the mailing list. I guess I’m just too busy to notice that I didn’t get it. BUT, I can guess who these two individuals are from other postings I’ve seen on other sites. I can say though, that there are many discussions about what constitutes a professional in many types of professions. This often happens in groups where there are both people who get paid for what they do and people who are unpaid hobbyists and people who are in a transitional phase. No one has a discussion about whether a doctor or a lawyer is a professional. That’s just a given. I’m not defending these two individuals because I don’t know exactly what they have written. But I wouldn’t give up on APG just yet.

  7. Hmmm…had been thinking about joining APG; maybe I better wait to see how things progress before parting with those membership dues. Please keep us posted.

  8. I’d love to see APG move to a “forum” format instead of a mailing list format. This can provide a place for those who have a particular drum they want to beat, while allowing others who so choose to ignore that place while participating in the threads they really want to. Even with the hijacking, I still find much of value in the mailing list, but it probably turns off many of the former participants.

    I happen to know that our executive director is away right now dealing with the death of a sister, so this might not be the most effective time to discuss this problem, but it’s good to get the concerns on record. I’m hoping Thomas will pass on the discussion after she returns from grieving and comforting her mother.

  9. Thanks Mike for the update – I’ve reached out to APG leadership and I know change can’t come overnight. I am ready to work for change when they get ramped up.

  10. Members of APG should always feel welcome to bring any concern or situation to a member of the Board or Executive Committee at any time. Most of us can be easily contacted either through our Executive Director ( or through our personal contact information in the Member Directory. I know you know how to reach me, Thomas.

  11. THANK YOU for posting this! I agree with you completely. It is frustrating to open an email then discover it’s more of a personal rant or personal agenda being pushed than helpful information. If I want to want drama I will watch the Walking Dead, not read a mailing list thread.

  12. I would think that this should be a consideration when nominating and choosing new board members? Do they have any role at all in this kind of behavior? If not, then should they?

  13. I find the delete button is quite handy during those myopic rants. What I find surprising is the continued responses that further engage those two people. It’s similar to trying to rationalize with a toddler…it can’t be done.

  14. I have also been thinking about joining APG, but I no longer see how it would benefit me in my genealogy career, especially since my genealogy activities are more on the “creative” and “outside the box” realm. It is quite disheartening to hear about these frequent virtual fights.

  15. People with single issue fixations can be found wherever two or more are gathered on the internet. Let’s not define APG by what happens on the mailing list. As a new professional (of 15 months standing) my membership has been invaluable to me. It has helped me set up and promote my business, find clients, learn new skills and develop relationships with other professionals. That said, the list moderators need to understand that allowing these recurring “discussions” puts members off the mailing list and non-members off membership – neither of which is good for APG.

  16. Thank you Thomas for posting this, I am a new member of APG and am at the beginning of my career as a Professional. I joined because everything I had seen about the steps to becoming a Professional strongly urge you to join. And many things I have found helpful, but these two people you mention have frightened me. Don’t stop vocalizing, your responses have made me feel better about my decision of where I want to go Professionally.

  17. I’ve pretty much what I had to say on Facebook, and on the APG-L itself in the past. I won’t repeat myself here.

    I do think a lot of the irksomeness of this issue could be mitigated if we had a more modern tool than a Listserv. Forms have clearer threading, MUCH better search functions, and often an “ignore” button. It’s easier to choose to participate in discussions you find meaningful. You choose when to log on to a forum; it doesn’t push itself into your regular email. That helps a lot when you already feel someone is pushing their beliefs onto you.

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