Us vs. Them

fight

I feel the need to clarify some things based on yesterday’s post Genealogy Blogging – For Fun or Profit? It appears that in some blog post comments and in social media venues such as Facebook and Twitter that an “us vs. them” attitude is being perpetuated or, worse yet, that I am trying to perpetuate such attitude.

There have been comments by several bloggers that we are no longer a community, that “things aren’t like they used to be,” that genealogy blogging was better before professional genealogists got involved, etc.  This is crazy talk as far as I’m concerned and here is why:

  • At some point, as a community, we have to deal with some of the issues involved with genealogy as an industry and a profession. To not do so is the same as sticking one’s head in the sand and pretending that the issues don’t exist.
  • Never have I undervalued the contributions of those who don’t want to pursue genealogy as a profession.  The majority of GeneaBloggers members pursue genealogy and family history for personal reasons. Note that I am trying to avoid the use of terms like “amateur” and “hobbyist” since they often come across as pejorative.
  • The backlash I’ve seen in the past two days only reinforces my initial fears for having this discussion.  It has to be safe to have this discussion and I’d rather see it out in the open where everyone can add their voices.
  • I started out as a “personal” genealogist and to follow my passion and to build a profession I migrated to professional genealogy.  Some would make it seem that I’ve betrayed the community in doing so. I disagree. My roots are still with the genealogy blogging community but I’ve also tried to serve as a role model for those who, like me, want to pursue a career in genealogy and family history.
  • The community has changed. Period. And I think it has changed for the better due to some hard work from many, many people in the community. Most of you know that I’m a forward looking guy – the only time I look back is to research my ancestors or the ancestors of others.  I don’t live a life of regrets, I live in the moment and I believe the future holds fascinating truths and gifts for all of us. For too many years the genealogy community has refused to look at its future and to embrace forward looking ideas. I refuse to be part of that thinking.
  • I am uneasy when words like “them” and “riff raff” and “outsiders” are used. I don’t like it when I hear things like about “these new people” and “how they can’t __________.” You fill in the blank. I keep reminding myself that these are the same words people used against my ethnic ancestors when they settled in certain areas and weren’t made very welcome. People come into our community bringing certain ideas and skills that get added to the great collective pool of wisdom.  It is through interaction and conversation that we determine what fits and what doesn’t.  It isn’t by telling people who belongs and who doesn’t.
  • “Who made you the leader of the genealogy blogging community?” is a question that occasionally comes my way – usually in a backhanded comment rather than right to my face.  This question has popped up a lot in the past two days.  I don’t see myself as the leader.  I’m very happy to turn this whole mess over to someone in a New York minute, believe me, because some days it is not worth the hassle. When you have an hour or two I’d love to dump on you and let you know about the dark side of running a site like GeneaBloggers.  How about trying to arbitrate blogger conflicts and getting folks to just “play nice?” Seriously – I deal with at least two conflicts a week where I shake my head and have to keep telling myself that I’m an adult and that this is fun.
  • Should there be other genealogy blogging communities? There already are – take a look on Facebook and other social media.  If you want to start your own have at it – I will fully support you and your efforts.  I think more communities is better actually. I’ve been approached to start several sub-communities including one for just professional genealogists as well as regional versions of GeneaBloggers (one for the UK, one for Europe, one for Australia, etc.). I am seriously considering these options but I don’t want to cause a fracture in the overall community. I’d like these to be “neighborhoods” as a few have deftly commented over on Facebook.  I live in one of the greatest “neighborhood” cities in the world – Chicago – and at 3 million people while it isn’t perfect, we do all get along and get things done. Maybe it is time we start looking at GeneaBloggers in neighborhood mode.
  • And finally, believe it or not, GeneaBloggers is not all about me.  Yes, it has been a vehicle for me to progress with my plans to become a professional genealogist. Some have made it seem that it is part of my evil plans for world domination.  Seriously. The truth is that back in early 2009 I started GeneaBloggers.com and snagged the domain name because some big players in the genealogy industry were sniffing around and making inquiries. I wanted to have a fair and level playing field for genealogy bloggers rather than have the concept co-opted by a genealogy vendor.

And again folks THIS IS MY OPINION. I realize that some may look to me as a leader in the genealogy and genealogy blogging communities but like any other blogger I still from time to time put into writing what I believe about certain issues.  This doesn’t make it right, this doesn’t make it wrong. What it should do is cause readers to think and perhaps comment and carry the conversation forward in a constructive manner.

Just like a television, if you don’t like what you see you can turn the channel. Or you can voice your opinion.  What I don’t expect are people stomping away in anger, leaving backhanded comments and insults on social media or other blogs and the like. This is what children do.

So, I will be continuing with the Genea-Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) series this week. I’m not going to let a few negative voices deter me. We need to have this conversation. We need to move forward. It is your decision, dear reader, as to whether or not you want to move forward with us.

©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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