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On Genealogy Snobbery

As occasionally happens, it appears that some people take not just exception at what we do here at GeneaBloggers but seem to take offense as well. And they go out of their way to stir things up, as it were.

It’s a free country (at least here in the United States where I sit now as I write this) and folks can say what they want and advocate what they want. Even when it comes to what is and isn’t genealogy. But since this is my platform, I want to make it clear what, in my opinion, we do here at GeneaBloggers:

  • We blog about our genealogy. We do so to expand the meaning of genealogy and the genealogical experience. We make genealogy accessible to everyone, even the beginner who might not “do it right” the first time or even every time. We encourage not discourage. We document our family history in various ways through blogging prompts. We commemorate celebrations and happy events as well as sad ones.
  • We don’t believe that genealogy is a field only accessible to a few. We don’t believe that you have to approach your family history from a certain perspective or a certain way. We don’t believe that you need to have a certain amount of education, a certification or a credential to write about your ancestors.
  • We tend to embrace populism over elitism. We often feel free to express our agreement or disagreement with others via comments or blog posts. We also offer encouragement and insights to others especially those new to genealogy and blogging. We are mature enough to understand that what might work for one person and their genealogy doesn’t necessarily work for us. And if it isn’t our cup of tea but others seem to be having fun with it, we don’t p*ss on their parade.

There aren’t many “thou shalt nots” here at GeneaBloggers.  We like people to be themselves, to be free and unfettered in discussing their own genealogy and family history and to do so in a safe and inviting environment, free of accusations or undue criticism. One thing we absolutely despise is snobbery.

Snobs abound even in genealogy. Some would ask why we should even pay attention to them. My only reason for pointing it out is more so for the new genealogy bloggers, that they should not be discouraged in any way from writing from the heart about their ancestors, their genealogy.

So when we ask folks to blog about Election Day or 9-11 or as we will for Veterans Day, they should feel comfortable doing so.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

43 thoughts on “On Genealogy Snobbery

  1. Here! Here!

    I follow the people and sites that I find interesting and informative. There’s an awful lot of sites on a lot of topics that I don’t read, but I don’t feel the need to tell any of them what I think they should do.

    Just keep doing what you do so well. You won’t please everybody, but you have to please yourself.

  2. Dear Thomas,

    You have brightened my day, week, month, year and life!

    Genealogy and Family History can be so much more and inclusive of the things are happening in our lives. That’s probably why my blog tends to drift slightly away from the core tenets of “Genealogy”.

    Thanks for providing a perspective that we all can gravitate towards.

    “Guided by the Ancestors”

  3. I agree. Martin’s post was helpful to no one. It only served to alienate his readers. Why do we blog? To share our knowledge, not to put ourselves on a pedestal.

    So keep blogging, dilettantes!

  4. Excellent post, I agree – your sentence “There aren’t many “thou shalt nots” here at GeneaBloggers.” I really like.

  5. “mature enough to understand that what might work for one person and their genealogy doesn’t necessarily work for us.”
    It is so sad when someone looks down on other people instead of being encouraging. Especially when the matter at hand is genealogy. Beginners aren’t going to be perfect. Mature people remember they were beginners once too. And gracious mature people are able to accept and enjoy people who are different than themselves. And families that are different than their own.
    Thomas, you have done so much to help us enjoy socializing with each other. How terribly sad that there are some who ostracize themselves from that fun and instead want to judge not only the people but also their research. Thanks Thomas for being a leader in the other direction.

  6. Thomas –

    As always, you put this so perfectly. It saddens me that there are some people out there who feel the need to put others down and judge an entire community based on a bad experience.

    I write on my genealogy blog what I want, simply because it is my blog and I wanted to share something. That something may be a story from my family, a memory, a research tip, and suggestion, an ah-ha moment, or a cry of frustration at a brick wall. I have been so blessed and I consider myself so fortunate to have so many people reading and commenting on my blog. Even when people disagree with me, I appreciate the often thought provoking conversation and new ideas.

    I also know that if someone doesn’t like what I blog about, that they are certainly welcome to not read it at all.


  7. I used to work at a Museum with a great local archive area and have met many genealogists – the “pros”, those who know nothing about doing research and everything in between. I know exactly what you are saying and think this was a lovely post!

  8. Well said Thomas. We geneabloggers appreciate all you have done to create a community.
    There will always be some that won’t agree or look at life with a glass half empty.

    Keep up the good work.

  9. Thank you for this Thomas. This research is about so much more than names.

    Your thematic blogging suggestions and meditations inspire us to think about our ancestors’ life experiences and hopefully lead to a better understanding of their lives.

  10. BRAVO to your post on genealogy snobbery! I myself call it “competitve genealogy!” At a recent conference, I met a fellow blogger from clear across the US who, when I said I had started a blog, scowled and called me her “competition!” When I started my blog, I received hate mail from some “professional genealogists” who asked me for my credentials. Didn’t know we needed credentials to blog (I always make it clear I am a family historian, not a pro genealogist). I think I kept on with the blog just to spite them! Your post was well said!

  11. Extremely well said, Tom, but a bit disheartening that it needed to be said at all. Thank you for all you do!

  12. Hey Thomas, you can’t please everyone all the time, but there seems to be a huge majority of us who are SO pleased that you do what you do. I am very grateful for the advice you have given me, and “Approaching the Lectern” was a great insight for me. Cheers! Jo

  13. Well put Thomas, you can’t please everyone all the time but your site pleases most of us all the time! Many thanks for sharing my blog. (@FamilyHistory4U

  14. Being one of the “newbies” to both genealogy and blogging, I appreciate all the encouragement that has been sent my way since joining this site. I can’t tell you how much fun and satisfaction I have had over the past several months spreading my wings so to speak, and learning from some of the most generous people I have had the pleasure to call “friend”. Thanks for this post Thomas, makes us fledgling geneabloggers feel empowered!

  15. Thank you for writing this! I started genealogy a little over 5 years ago and blogging a little over 2 years ago, and still consider myself a beginner. But, with encouragement and pointers from others, ALL of us can learn a lot. I have referred to the genea-blogging community as Genea-Bloggers U., because so many people have been so generous (without being condescending) in sharing their knowledge and experience.

  16. Thanks Thomas. I work at a historical society’s library & archive. I meet a wide variety of researchers. Each researcher has specific goals and reasons for being at the library.

    I usually say to researchers, ” You have some decisions to make.” “You have control over your own research.” “Here is the challenge for you.” “Here are some suggestions, you decide which works best for you.”

    Over the years, one of my personal rewards is to follow the direction of long time researchers. Where has their research taken them? Genealogical or family heritage research, usually takes people waaaay beyond the scope of genealogy to what I call, “life lessons.”

    Thanks again, Tom.

  17. Many people I know have a mental picture of genealogists, pro and amateur, as being stuffy and
    boring. What I can’t understand is how anyone who has learned enough to become a snob about genealogy could have missed the fact that it’s as much about creativity, thinking outside the box and pure intuition as it is about best practices and rules of documentation and research.

  18. I’m really sorry that this kind of post is necessary, but having lived long enough to experience all kinds of attitudes, I know (intellectually) that it is.

    The more I shake my family tree, the more I see that “coloring outside the lines” is an inherited trait for me. The genea-snobs will just need to use that little scroll bar if they don’t like what they see in my blog…

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