I read an article the other day in which I was told in essence that I’m not good enough to write my family history. Now, the author, Sharon Tate Moody, doesn’t know me and doesn’t read this blog or know about me or it or anything I do or say or don’t cite, but she said that she wonders if I should, “have a research license (sort of like a driver's license)” before I can publish my work “in print or on the Internet.”
Now, I know I shouldn’t always internalize everything written on the internet, but I did and I do. I write family books and I write blog posts and I don’t have a research license and I doubt my citing of sources is usually or even sometimes entirely kosher. So it was about me, or at the very least, people like me.
She also wrote about those who “believe the television ads about how easy it is to click on a few links and find your entire family.” She said that those people “steal the family car and have a grand old time for the weekend, racing around the Internet and leaving a mess for someone else to clean up on Monday morning.” Since she doesn’t define “a few links,” I have to believe this could be me, too. I do race around the internet when I get a bug up my butt about an ancestor. I work full time and have two small children, so I don’t have time to race around the real world.
I didn’t really want to think on it too much as my Grand Theft Genealogy brings me great pleasure and I don’t really want to give it up. But I also don’t want to spend more time on sources and information and evidence and proof than I do on finding and sharing my family stories. My time is extremely limited and in the grand scheme of time-ration, source citations get about 2% of what’s leftover. Over the last few days, I had those thoughts one after another and then moved on to thinking about what I was going have for dinner.
In between, I tried to decide if I was mad or had hurt feelings. Thinking on this, I decided I was neither mad nor hurt; I simply disagree. I don’t believe the author’s intent was to anger, hurt or be disagreed with. I think the intent was to express her discomfort with coming across “garbage” on the internet and she was trying to find a way to fix it. Welcome to Earth.
I had my 4-H Family History group meeting on Saturday and my students told me that not everything you read on the internet is true. They know this because they ARE the internet. I looked at them while we made family tree posters and talked about tradition. I watched them get excited over little things. The spelling of their great great grandfather’s name. That they could remember it was called a pedigree chart. That they have a family bible at home to look in. That they get to see Grandma and Grandpa on Thanksgiving and can’t wait to find out what their traditions were growing up.
What if I had taken that moment to read the second half of Ms. Moody’s article to them about the differences between source, information, evidence, and proof? What if I had taken that moment to tell them that they were not allowed to write anything until they learned the rules and got a license?
I just can’t believe that source citations are more important than passion and excitement. Definitely important, but definitely not MORE important. Without this passion, excitement and curiosity, the future of genealogy would be very, very bleak and not something I want anything to do with.
When I started this in 1995, I did it to make a plaque for my grandfather. I couldn’t get his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren lined up correctly, so I bought a computer program to plot it out for me. I kept adding the things I knew and here we are. I never intended on being a genealogist; I was just out for a test drive. Or perhaps “joy ride” is the better term.
With all that said, I think I’ll just keep on ridin’ until someone carts me away to Genealogy Jail for Grand Theft Genealogy. I will be in good company there, at least. And maybe I can finish Grampa’s plaque.