Today, July 4th, marks the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence here in the United States. This monumental event marked a “break” between the Colonies and Great Britain and led to the creation of a historic democracy that still endures.
While many of us here in The States will celebrate with friends and family with parades, cook outs and fireworks, have you considered a “break” with past methods, habits and traditions in your genealogy research? I’m not talking a total break or de-valuing things that are proven to “work” when it comes to finding ancestors. I mean taking a different approach to what you currently do to break down brick walls, to learn more about record sets and the like.
Genealogy Freedoms Worth Celebrating
These are just a few of the genealogy freedoms that I try to pursue each and every day:
Freedom to Access All Genealogy Records
The ability to freely access records doesn’t mean they should be FREE. It means there should be reasonable means to get the information I need to trace my family history. Let’s minimize the number of hoops we need to jump through to get what we need. Let’s celebrate projects such as Reclaim the Records and give them our support since they fight for unfettered access to records that local and state governments don’t want to make public.
Freedom to Sourced Genealogical Research
When sharing genealogy research, I want to make clear that information that is documented and sourced as opposed to that which is “unsourced.” I want the freedom to review any research you share with me and ask questions. Doing so doesn’t seek to minimize your hard work or to remove any attachment to a family story; doing so simply means I can determine how, and if, your data fits in with my family history puzzle.
Freedom to Share Genealogy Research Responsibly
The freedom to post my genealogy research, especially narratives, reports and photos, and have copyright respected. I don’t mind if you use my stuff, just ask first and if you don’t ask, at least attribute the content to me and honor my hard work.
Freedom from Junk Genealogy
Over the years I’ve grown as a genealogist and have become discerning in terms of what is good, solid genealogy research and what is just junk genealogy. I want the freedom to counter junk research with facts that are sourced and sound. I don’t want to perpetuate genealogy urban legends (such as “our family name was changed at Ellis Island”) and add to the genealogy junk pile.
Freedom to Employ Sound Proof Standards
I want the freedom to apply sound proof standards – such as those that are part of the Genealogical Proof Standard as developed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists – to my research. I also want the freedom to create “streamlined” research narratives without footnotes to share with family members. I want the freedom to document my research using whatever method best works for me including research logs, genealogy database software, and more resources.
Freedom from Genealogy Scams
Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have opportunists in the genealogy industry? I want the freedom to call out companies and individuals who perpetuate scams or try to confuse consumers into purchasing goods and services that are a waste of time and money.
Freedom to Use Social Media Responsibly
Social media has revolutionized genealogy research for many over the past few years. We’ve moved from posting queries at Everton’s Genealogical Helper or Prodigy, to joining genealogy groups on Facebook to find what we need. We’re now doing lookups via social media including Twitter. My use of social media doesn’t mean I’m not employing sound genealogical research practices; it simply means that I’m expanding the pool of resources for genealogy research.
Freedom to Access Genealogy Education
Since I started pursuing genealogy research (back in 1977), the opportunities for genealogy education have exploded. But there’s still room for improvement. We need more online resources especially as the Baby Boomer population becomes less mobile. And we need to attract and retain the Millennials in the genealogy community. How about a true virtual genealogy conference with multiple tracks, a virtual exhibit hall and all the trappings of an event such as RootsTech? These virtual events can never be a substitute for the in-person experience, but more options in genealogy education means bringing in more users and creates more opportunities to connect with other researchers.
Freedom from the Professional vs. Amateur Genealogist Divide
What a waste of time to see genealogists still debate the topic of what makes for a good genealogist. Professionals don’t have all the answers and a post-nominal does not convey special research powers. Amateurs don’t have all the answers either and still have lots to learn from professional genealogists. In a “can’t we all get along” world, I would love the freedom to share my research methods and research advice without being discounted because I haven’t accumulated some type of certification.
Freedom to Enjoy Genealogy and Family History
Over the past eight years I’ve found too many people trying to erect roadblocks to the way in which we enjoy “doing genealogy.” My opinion: as long as I’m following sound research principles, sharing my research responsibly, and bringing more to the genealogy community than I take from it, please don’t rain on my parade. What works for you may not work for me. Genealogy is very personal for many of us. Let me be free to pursue the enjoyment according to my resources, my personal beliefs and my goals.
Are You Ready to Declare Your Genealogy Independence?
Change is never easy especially in genealogy. While you are celebrating all the freedoms that are available to you today, why not resolve to celebrate new genealogy freedoms and put them to work in your family history research?
©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.