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Genealogy: A House Divided or A House With Many Doors?


Seeing the genealogy community as divided between professionals and amateurs or as a complex structure filled with facets and opportunities is a matter of perspective. Over the past few weeks several discussions concerning the state of the genealogy community have popped up, many of which I started and I take responsibility for starting.

There are several discussion points below. I invite members of the GeneaBloggers community to participate, if they so choose, over at their blog and then link back to their post in the comments. For those of you without a blog or who simply want to comment, use the Comments platform of your choice (listed below).

Is This Really Important?

In the big scheme of things? No. I know what’s important to me (mass murder in Syria, freedom of speech in Russia and other topics) is not on the same scale of “genealogy issues.” While it sounds very “first world” to even be having this discussion, there is a level of interest which should allow such a discussion.

Some of you don’t want to have this discussion. Instead of saying “Well then go away,” I’m willing to say “That’s valid. Let me know why you feel we shouldn’t have this discussion.”

Ground Rules?

Simple: Act is if you were being interviewed on stage at a major genealogy event such as a conference or a radio broadcast. Be considerate, be clear, be concise. Own your opinions. No trolling. No anonymous comments. Don’t rehash old insults, slights or hurts. Keep it positive. Propose solutions.

Discussion Points – Where Is Genealogy Going?

Some of these are provocative and come from the bizarre mind of your host here at GeneaBloggers. My goal is always to get people to think, and many times to think outside the established or accepted parameters. That’s just how I roll.

  • Do you think the genealogy community periodically needs to have these discussions related to professional vs. amateur genealogy? Or are they unproductive and if so, why?
  • Has the DIY (“do it yourself”) approach in genealogy and the influx of many new to genealogy ruined it for the rest of us?
  • Does the use of the terms “professional” and “amateur” in genealogy help or hinder the community?
  • What is your definition of a professional genealogist? A hobby or amateur genealogist?
  • Is there one true path to being a professional genealogist? Is a credential or degree necessary?
  • Is professional training in genealogy geared more towards those with a higher socio-economic status or those who already have a higher educational background?
  • If you could tell someone new to genealogy that there are “standards” to follow, what would they be?
  • If the gamut of genealogical experience spans from Professional to Amateur, are there descriptive terms that can be used for those “in between” those end points? Hobbyist? Talented Amateur? Professional Amateur?
  • If someone uses their credential or experience in a way that is meant to demean, discount or dissuade the work of another genealogist (professional or amateur), what is an acceptable response to such a comment? Should it be ignore or is a response required? Would the response be different if the comment were made in-person or electronically (email, blog post, comment, etc.)?
  • Is there elitism in genealogy? If so, will it ever be eliminated? If it can’t be eliminated, what are some suggested tips on dealing with it?
  • Has genealogy always been rooted in elitism or is there simply an active push by some practitioners to set standards which will ultimately benefit all in the genealogy community as well as those that consign genealogical research services?
  • Is there really room for “everyone” at the genealogy table?
  • Are Professional Amateurs a threat to professional genealogy or simply a new breed of genealogist who happen to have a strong command of technology and a different perspective on genealogy?
  • Is there a generation gap in genealogy? Are there any other “divides” in the genealogy community or are these divisive tactics which act as roadblocks to enjoying genealogy as a hobby or profession?

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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