Open Thread Thursday: Do We Eat Our Own In The Genealogy Industry?

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

Given the genealogy community’s reaction to the recent RootsTech attempt to exclude book vendors and other genealogy vendors from its exhibit hall, do you feel we’re too critical of the resources and partners we’ve built up over the years? Do we tear into each other via social media without considering consequences or being grateful for what we have?

Or is it more a case of “we know we can do and be better than this” and we’re seeking to ensure a vibrant community filled with resources covering every aspect of genealogy?  Are we willing to risk the loss of an event or a resource in lieu of something better? Do we properly channel our energies and opinions? Should vendors and others be wary of working with genealogists who blog, use social media, etc. because we are opinionated and sometimes critical?

And finally, in light of the recent changes with access to the Social Security Death Index and the restrictions on vital records at the state and local level, are we too complacent? Are we not vocal enough? Or are there too many voices which need to be channeled into a more resounding, louder and effective voice?

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things!”

The best way to present my views on this topic is to relate a story from my youth:

As a young child, I spent time at a neighbor’s house filled with their energetic and rambunctious kids. I loved the dynamic and the energy because at home it was just me and my brother.  But the mother was often just exasperated.  On one visit, the Mom was enduring one of those “‘Calgon, take me away’ moments” and yelled to her brood, “You see! This is why we can’t have nice things!” as the kids ran amok all over the house.

That incident has stuck with me even after 40 years. When I first got started in the online genealogy community, I was too concerned with how bloggers and others appeared to vendors as well as other entities.  I’m sure they thought we were rambunctious, sometimes out of control, and sought to destroy rather than build alliances. I sometimes focused too much on how we looked to outsiders.

Lessons on Working with the Online Genealogy Community

As time went on, I’ve learned to embrace the many voices and opinions in our community and now know that this is just an extension of our passion for genealogy and family history.  Luckily we do have platforms such as message forums, mailing lists, Facebook, Twitter and social media to bounce ideas off of each other and to let our voices reverberate. Twenty years ago, you’d have to read about the loss of a resource after the fact and in a newsletter or hear about it at a genealogy meeting or conference.

What “change makers” like RootsTech have learned is this:

  • The online genealogy community is an ally, a friend. We have resources, we have voices, we have opinions and there aren’t many shrinking violets among us.  Ask us and we’ll tell you how we feel.  Bounce an idea off of us.  Send us surveys.  Ask for feedback.
  • Learn the realities of working in the online world of genealogy. It is 24/7. It is global.  There is a strong genealogy community in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and many other places around the world; genealogy is not, nor should it be, US-centric. The tools are at your disposal for monitoring chatter and voices.
  • We respect honesty and transparency. Face it, this is what we do as genealogists, right? We seek the unvarnished truth about our ancestors. So be up front with us. Don’t try to put one over on us and when in doubt, see the first bullet point, and ask us what we think. As Judge Judy says, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”
  • Abundance rules. FamilySearch and Jay Verkler especially have taught us this. As have many other resources and folks that constantly give such as Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, RootsWeb, GenWeb, and more.  You will not find a community more willing to embrace newcomers, willing to teach, guide and to shepherd those who need information and resources, than the online genealogy community.

Shift Happens

Shift happens, people. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a voice in terms of how it impacts our passion: genealogy.  For some of us this is not just a hobby, it is our means of making a living. For many of us it is even a spiritual calling. We can deal with change. We make complain about it or take time to adjust, but we know that each day brings new ideas, new resources . . . and new hope of finding that elusive ancestor or breaking down that brick wall.

Putting it simply: we’re not a bunch of bratty kids nor a group of old cranky pants.  We’re people just like you. We’re passionate about genealogy the way you are about other things.  We’re smart, we’re funny, we’re sometimes critical but, I hope, always with this one thought in the backs of our minds: we need each other. Like any other crazy family with fights, pouting, arguments and more.  We need each other and, deep down, we really do appreciate each other.

As for that neighbor Mom . . . I’m sure that 20 or 30 years later she looked back with fondness at those crazy days and knew that her kids turned out all right. We’ll be all right too.

***

This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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About Thomas MacEntee

What happens when a “tech guy” with a love for history gets laid off during The Great Recession of 2008? You get Thomas MacEntee, a genealogy professional who’s also a blogger, educator, author, social media connector, online community builder and more. Thomas was laid off after a 25-year career in the information technology field, so he started his own genealogy-related business called High Definition Genealogy. He also created an online community of over 3,000 family history bloggers known as GeneaBloggers. His most recent endeavor, Hack Genealogy, is an attempt to “re-purpose today’s technology for tomorrow’s genealogy.” Thomas describes himself as a lifelong learner with a background in a multitude of topics who has finally figured out what he does best: teach, inspire, instigate, and serve as a curator and go-to-guy for concept nurturing and inspiration. Thomas is a big believer in success, and that we all succeed when we help each other find success.

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