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Occupy Genealogy

With a variety of Occupy protests taking place here in the United States and worldwide, I’ve watched the nightly news, read the online news sites and generally have kept tabs on both the issues and theatrics involved.

My intent is not to offer my opinion of the Occupy movement but to ponder the concept of an Occupy Genealogy movement. Seem silly?  Not really if you’ve followed recent changes in the genealogy community over the past few years.

But is there an Occupy Genealogy movement and, in fact, is one really needed? There is, and there isn’t and here’s why an Occupy Genealogy movement is nothing like the current ongoing protests:

  • Changes have been taking place in the genealogy industry during the past five plus years but without much noisy protest or clamor. Sure, we’ve had our moments: push back of the social media and blogging concept, copyright issues, etc. But as I see it, much of the change came about through healthy discourse and dialog. No bullhorns, no signs, no tear gas.
  • Slowly the community sees the value in various initiatives such as webinars, social media, blogging, and education. And there is room for a variety of voices and opinions. Discourse and discussion is lively, sometimes heated, but almost always positive and productive. There will always be naysayers and those who think any change is negative. But like most of our ancestors, and despite our obsession of “looking back,” we are a forward-looking people.
  • Genealogists see a difference in “holding on to the past” and “researching the past.” We cling to our ancestors as a means of learning about their lives and ultimately, about our own. But, for the most part, we are open to new ways of doing so, new ways of finding what is old.
  • What does it mean to “occupy genealogy?” To me, it means that I am right there in the thick of it. I get involved whether it is on the local level with a genealogy society, or on the national level with discourse, blogging and discussion, or on the international level with projects like Genealogists for Families. I am not content with just “witnessing” genealogy, I want to participate. I don’t want to merely consume the resources of the genealogy community and run off to my own corner of the world and see what I could get. I want to fully occupy genealogy. And I want genealogy to occupy me.
  • And what occupies your genealogy? Are you taking full advantage of what the genealogy community has to offer? Conferences, social media, message forums, institutes, webinars, and all the other facets of our community?
  • Our ancestors occupied not just their communities, and their time periods, but they occupied a generation and a place in history. Those who didn’t participate fully are those barely noticed, those whose voices are difficult to hear.

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I’m not trying to be controversial with this post or the post title. My goal is to get readers thinking. Think about your current role in the genealogy community and whether you need to amplify your voice, your opinion and your activity. And consider the rewards of doing so.

Weigh in with your opinion and tell us how you occupy genealogy over at today’s Open Thread Thursday post.

Oh, and for a laugh, click here and see how GeneaBloggers has already been “occupied.”

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

8 thoughts on “Occupy Genealogy

  1. Fascinating. I hadn’t considered it, but you’re right…although I think it’s more akin to a changing neighborhood than an occupation. Like a changing neighborhood, some folks welcome the diversity, and some are less excited about it…but the change comes no matter what.

  2. Interesting. I think it is important to be in the thick of things and to stay on top of the latest advances in genealogy. Change is inevitable and can be exciting.

    Thanks for mentioning the Genealogists for Families project.

  3. I hadn’t thought of it this way before. Very interesting. And thanks for mentioning the Genealogists for Families project. Right now it has 58 members from 8 countries helping 86 families or small businesses around the globe – and the numbers increase daily.

  4. This is very true Thomas. Being open to new things and ideas is so important. Being involved in the genealogy community brings me so much more joy, friendship, knowledge & help than if I sat back downloading from my computer or just attended a meeting without contributing.

    We are in a diverse community and showing people the advantages of the newer technologies as you do with the FGS program and Geneabloggers is the way forward.

    My great-grandmother kept her gas lights until 1949, even though electricity had been available in her area for twenty years because she was scared of “this new-fangled thing.”

  5. What a fascinating concept! The longer I conduct my research the more inclined I am to acquire new skills, and to reach out to more people through social media and in local genealogical societies. I totally agree with your statement that, while genealogists research the past we are by and large a forward-looking people. I am inspired by this idea to Occupy Genealogy; it certainly occupies me.

  6. Genealogy occupies my time, my thoughts and my resources. It’s something I enjoy. For 25 years I’ve “paid it forward” as a society newsletter editor; as a volunteer with Unclaimed Persons and Families for Forgotten Heroes; and as someone who regularly checks message boards to assist others when possible.

    Things change. We know that, and we (mostly, hopefully) accept it. However, if the many changes in records access keep proliferating, it will become much more difficult to do what we do.

    Right now, many medical examiners are relying on volunteers to assist them in finding next of kin for their unclaimed deceased. Still other genealogists work with the military to trace next-of-kin for soldiers whose remains were never recovered. Genealogists in libraries, museums and archives interpret data and records. Genealogists who post to FindAGrave or BillionGraves are preserving information. Genealogists involved in DNA studies are helping medical advances. We’re digitizing, documenting, educating, advocating.

    There is room at the table for everyone – those who would protect against identity theft as well as those who use the SSDI for good, not evil. Those who write books as well as those who write software programs. Those for whom genealogy is a passion, as well as those who just don’t understand what all the fuss is about. But we need to let them know we expect an invitation to the table. The decisions they want to make are far too important to be made in a vacuum.

    We need to make our views known to those who would propose legislation to close records or curtail information. These people need to see that we are not a small, insignificant group of hobbyists. We are an educated, informed, engaged body of people whose pursuit — whether professionally, or for leisure — is benefiting society in a myriad of ways.

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