The Genealogy Elite and the Genealogy Police

[reprinted from 7 April 2014–it’s going to be a while before I can upload old posts to this new format]

{opinion alert–we are also working on some research posts as well…so stay tuned for those as well]

According to some, high upon a mountain top, hidden among clouds and gray skies, are the genealogical elite. According to current mythology, they sit in judgement of virtually every genealogical statement that is made.  It is possible they wear white robes and carry gilded copies of the genealogical proof standards in their glove-covered hands.  However, no one really knows since they rarely appear face to face with any mere humans.

I have never been contacted by the genealogical elite so I can provide no evidence for their existence.  The genealogical elite apparently dispense scathing criticism to researchers, bloggers, and writers. Their criticism is always negative and always harsh. They rarely share their knowledge freely with anyone, only dispensing it quarterly in journals that are only seen by other members of the genealogical elite and their minions: the genealogical police.

The genealogical police serve two purposes: protecting the genealogical elite and dispensing genealogical justice. The genealogical police are stationed at the bottom of the mythical mountain on which the genealogical elite reside. The genealogical police restrict access to the genealogical elite by use of  defensive editing, grammar correcting, and an extreme enforcement of the genealogical proof standard.
I don’t believe in the existence of the genealogical elite and I don’t believe in the existence of the genealogy police.

In the course of my nearly thirty years of genealogical experience, I have only been on the receiving end of encouragement of “big names” in the genealogical field. I have never received disdain or biting criticism and I’ve never received any nasty emails. On those times when I have been wrong about something, I’ve received either suggestions or questions that were asked politely in order to get me to think myself through my mistake. In fact, I have found well-respected genealogists to be more approachable than “well-known” individuals in other fields.

Publishing genealogical conclusions online, either in a “tree,” a blog, or a website makes it easy for others to learn of your conclusions. And it makes it easy for someone with a different conclusion or who may not understand how you reached your conclusion to contact you. Someone who sees your conclusions and asks you where you got them or how you reached them is not being “elite.” Someone who points out that there are a number of sources that run contrary to your conclusion is not being “elite.” I am one who wants to know that I have made a conclusion that needs to be revised (translation: “I made a mistake.”) Those people are simply searching for information on their ancestors.  And isn’t that what we all are doing?

If a correspondent is rude or condescending, that’s one thing–but simply asking you a question does not make that person elite. I want my research to be as accurate as possible. If someone helps me to better my research or my research skills, I may call them many things, but elite is not one of those words.

Calling someone names because they disagree with me is something I gave up in third grade.


6 thoughts on “The Genealogy Elite and the Genealogy Police

  1. Barbara Stinson says:

    Bravo! Well said. Personally, I like to be asked questions. It makes me think out loud. I also want to know what “you” think an maybe give me a new perspective! Sounds like a good thing in most endeavors!

  2. Barbara Young says:

    I set parameters for myself when I first began – if I could get the ancestors back to their time of immigration. I have nearly done that – there are holes in the fence but if I can’t fill them, I am very happy that I got as far as I did.

    I have made errors and found correct information for some and some are just sitting there chuckling.

    The elite would be horrified with my approach and outlook. The police night just lock me in a room until I came to my senses.

    I do it for fun and learning new things. I have spent many hours reading a book pertaining to the times the ancestors lived. I find that too much time is spent doing some research which could be better spent working on someone else.:} There are just so many hours in our lives and I find turning page after page on a microfische is too hard on the eyes and definitely tedious.

    Deep down. I don’t want to “finish” my tree. I want to leave enough of those fence holes open that they will entice someone who comes after me, to solve the problem. I think too many people want to fill in every blank and answer all questions “for their descendants” I hope there are descendants who are curious and like research and there are things for them to do. The best gift I have to give, is the joy of doing what I did and letting others have the same feeling working on the fence.

    If everything is done for them, it might be looked at, perhaps not even read and put on the coffee table to impress. But they gain nothing from it.
    I am not interested in copies of birth,death, marriage, immigration, naturalization and who knows how many more things to copy. I find the dates etc. but don’t get all the copies – that can be a project for someone to fix.

    I wish for those following me will be curious enough to read the old books as written in the time they were living. I like to read the originals, unedited.

    I have to stop – there is a very tiny bunny eating grass right outside my window. At first I thought it was a sparrow.:}

  3. Michael J Denis says:

    I have been the victim of several genealogy elites. In particular, we were friendly, cordial, and sharing, UNTIL they became CGRS. Sort of like when one adds Ph.D. after one’s name, it can equate to Go.D. These two people in particular would not even acknowledge my presence (or often, the presence of others) at conferences or meetings, as they were so tied up with other CGRS. They were definitely on top of the mountain compared to the rest of us, many of whom had been doing quality genealogical research for decades longer than the CGRS.

    So yes, I can tell you they exist. I have actually tried to dissuade several friends from going the certification route because of my experiences with the “lettered genealogists.”

  4. I have asked questions at times – for clarification – and was responded to as if I were a genealogy police. It made me evaluate how I was coming across. I realized that it would have been very easy for my approach to get in the way of fruitful genealogical cooperation, and that is not what I want. So I changed my approach. Problem solved, because I have no business in thinking I can police much of anything.

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