Kimmitt Genealogical Research

06 January 2012

How I Can Live With Myself, Being Both a GeneaBlogger and Board-Certified Genealogist

The Rules
OK, everybody back to your corners. Here are the rules to polite behavior. Are you engaging in them?
1. Do not insult anyone.
2. Do not generalize.
3. Do not stereotype.
4. Pay attention to who is saying what and how many times s/he repeats it.
5. Count to one hundred before posting. (I know, I know, I didn't follow this with my bow tie comment on Facebook, and I'm very sorry. I'll make it up to you bow tie people.)

The Problem
The online genealogical community is in an uproar over ever-more heated comments in the debate on citing sources on blogs. I don't want to go into detail about the comments. One person in the genealogical community is proselytizing--telling bloggers how to blog. As far as I can tell, just one associate of the Board for Certification for Genealogists, commonly called Certified Genealogists(SM) or CGs. I am one of those AND a blogger, and I'm writing to defend both.

Snarkiness on the list has been dragged out and repeated endlessly by people who are not certified because they do not agree that those principles define professional genealogy. They can't seem to tell us what does, but I don't care what they think and I'm ignoring them. Can you? They have nothing to do with this discussion.

My Credentials Should Not Be Threatening to You
I pursued certification because I wanted to know how well I measured up against professional standards in the field. I'm just that kind of person. I wanted to know if I was doing it "right." I have never been the most confident of people, but I wanted to be assessed. I thought the standards made good sense, would make me more productive and please my clients. I measured up just fine, thank you very much. That's between me and BCG®. It's an assurance to my clients that at least I had the guts to let someone else look at my work and tell me what they thought of it. It's not assurance that I'm going to write fantastic reports every time, just that I want to do so. I do not want to lord my credentials over anyone. I do not think I am better than anyone else. But I worked really, really hard, learned a lot and am not going to apologize for that. I am well aware that a lot of the best genealogists in the country do not have credentials. Just because you never took an IQ test doesn't mean you're not intelligent. And some people who managed to get credentials create some lousy work.

But when are we supposed to follow the standards, including citing sources? In client reports? Of course. In writing articles (though some publications strip them out anyway)? Of course. In writing up our own research? Sure helps if you ever want to find it again. But how about blog posts?

It's My Blog and I'll Cite If I Want To
How about we leave it up to the individual? Yes, vast, angry, oh-so-sensitive GeneaBlogger community, it's up to you, personally, to make that decision. One guy trying to change the world really shouldn't be such a threat. Everyone engaging in genealogy does not have to follow professional standards. It depends on the post. It depends on what you want people to take away from the post. I've got credentials, colleagues who read my work and will judge me on it, potential clients who will be evaluating my posts, and still, only very rarely do I cite my sources in footnote form. I mention the record groups, and anything out of the ordinary or hard to find I include in the body of my post. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS, EVEN FOR PROFESSIONALS AND THOSE WITH CREDENTIALS. There is room for everyone in the sandbox as long as you don't throw sand.

The nature of blogging is casual, transient and in my opinion only one step away from email or writing in a diary. Formal ESM-style citations are overkill there, especially for the happy casual genie. The spirit of citing your sources is to make it clear where you info comes from, and bloggers just naturally do that.

It's Not Compromise, It's Inclusivity

I think it ought to be clear by now that there are two extremes. But that's the point: they are extreme ends of the spectrum of human nature. Those who need every comma in the precise spot and those who talk/write without knowing much. Neither of these is balanced. By taking what one man says and accusing 2,000 other people of subscribing to his theories you stir up trouble. It doesn't have to do with credentials. It's too easy to paint everybody in two camps. Bloggers vs. Credentialed. Everyman vs. Elitists. Democratic vs. Fascist. I have some very good friends who are persnickety about typos, commas and the like, but I am not. I care about bad information, bad manners and bad feeling in public forums. The point is to get the information out where we can access it ourselves and judge for ourselves whether it needs more research or not. The vast amount of information I've only touched on in the blog posts I've read make it clear what a genuinely valuable resource they are. The bloggers will decide on their own format. If you want a precise citation, ask the blogger.

Some of the absolute best GeneaBloggers have now declared themselves against professional genealogy and started to show disdain for what I worked so hard to achieve. All because one guy is advocating citing sources on blogs? Really? Their voices are pervasive and important to me, and I'm sad that something I was proud of having achieved is now being mocked and equated with bad character.

If you've insulted someone, apologize. If you're feeling persecuted, relax! Can we all please take the weekend off and come back with smiles on our faces, ready to do some real genealogy? It's time!


Barbara J. Mathews, CG said...

Thank you, Miss Polly!

Paula Stuart-Warren said...

Well-said! Thank you.

Valerie said...

Excellent post and well stated. I have the great respect for those who have gone through the difficult process to become credentialed. Major kudos are in order. I hope your attitude and behavior is adopted by everyone in the community.

Cathi at Stone House Research said...


CMPointer said...

As well you should be proud of what you've achieved, Polly. It took hard work, dedication, and follow through to achieve certification. I admire that.


Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Polly - well stated!

The crux of it all is that what has gone on makes everyone feel badly no matter what side of the spectrum. It is most unfortunate that one person could cause all this angst.

This is definitely a wine (not whine) night ;)


Elissa S Powell said...

I don't understand this "elitism" accusation. Doesn't everyone put on their pants the same way? What I have found is that once we take people off the pedastal that WE have place them on, they look pretty ordinary and friendly.

Lisa said...

Well said!

Christy Fillerup said...

Great post, Polly!

Cheryll Toney Holley said...

Nicely done!

DearMYRTLE said...

Thanks for putting a stop to the madness.

We're each on a learning curve.

We certainly do learn more effectively in a positive environment!

Myrt :)

Anonymous said...

" I'm sad that something I was proud of having achieved is now being mocked and equated with bad character."

I'd like to personally apologize to you and others if my words were mocking folks' achievements.

Bad character is placed upon those who would defend exclusivity, be gatekeepers, and tell people how to create. That would be Bad Company.

I see many genealogy blogs as expressions of love and creativity. Many make me laugh and many make me cry. For the Ancestors' sake, let's not put some artificial protocol between us and their stories; their lives. Let's not do that.

A citation is not going to validate or invalidate the essence of any of my Ancestors; I'll tell you that right now.

Achievements are to be recognized, honored, and appreciated. They are not to be lorded over the rest.

Peace & Blessings,
"Guided by the Ancestors"

Skip Murray said...

I am one of those people who are hyper sensitive to Clique's, elitism (doubt I spelled that right), and excluding people. I sometimes struggle with finding my place in the world and feeling equal to others and belonging somewhere. I am an amateur genealogist and sometimes I'm not even comfortable with associating the word genealogist with my name. I haven't a clue how to properly site a source with all those footnote thingies or bibliographies. I've made it a point with all the genealogy friends I've made on facebook to not learn who is who, as in who has what letters after their names or who belongs to what specialty groups, etc. I just all want us to be good friends who share a passion for the same thing. I just wanted us all to be one big equal family, and by not knowing the "who is who" of the heavy hitters in our community, I've prevented myself from being intimidated by others credentials or feeling inferior to others because of their credentials, or their fame, or the books they've written, or the speaking they do, or the societies they run, or the blogging they do. It keeps us all on the same playing field for me, and keeps my insecurities at bay.

I do believe that it is helpful to others to know where our information comes from, so I think there should be a way to communicate that, but I don't give a hoot HOW someone passes on the info, as long as it is passed on.

There are many important issues the genealogy community is facing. Things like access to records, etc. I think we need to agree to disagree about somethings and honor the fact we are all individuals with our own opinions and our own feelings and our own styles. I think we need to NOT draw a line in the sand over who is a pro and who isn't, or who is a blogger or who isn't, or who cites sources and who doesn't, or who shares their info and who doesn't. I think we need to kiss and make up and give a group hug and get back to work and share our passion with others. We need to work together to preserve records, and find ways to make records available to everyone. I think we need to protect our right to access vital records. These things are way more important than who has letters after their name or what style others prefer to use in their blogs.

Let's each be free to be our own special individual selves, let's honor and respect our individual styles.

I'm ready to jump off my soap box now and go buy the first round of ice cream.

Charles Hansen said...

Well Said Polly, I put in my blog what I want and really do not care if others do not like it.

Kim von Aspern-Parker said...

Well said. You managed to say exactly what I tried to say long ago, but I put it badly and you said it so eloquently. My hat is off to you, not just for your post but for your CG achievement as well.

Digravel said...

Bravo, Polly! Well said!

Digravel said...

Bravo, Polly! Well said, as usual. And I think all your commas are correctly placed.

Lori Thornton said...

Well said! I've been shocked to see the reactions to this. I also sincerely doubt that the majority of bloggers lack the HTML skills (or the patience in hand-coding blog posts) that it would take to truly do proper citations in each blog post. I know that I have taken shortcuts myself because of the second issue when I have felt that something needs citations that could not easily be introduced internally without disrupting the flow. Sometimes I've just given a bibliography; sometimes I've used parentheses without hot links for citations. In most instances my blog posts are short and discuss and single source. I'm able to mention that in the post without a lot of problems.

Kim Ostermyer said...

Great blog! Being an uncertified genealogist, I've been frustrated with a lot of the negative undertows that seem to take over the genealogy community from time to time.

Sometimes passions make people quirky.

I apologize for those of us who are not certified and are giving us non-credentialed folks a bad name. Let me get the kiddos into school and I'll join the ranks soon enough. It won't be long before I'm going from changing diapers to writing reports....or so I hope.

Lidian said...

I haven't been following this at all (am just catching up now) but I thank you, too, for your wonderful post. This is something I worry about - I don't tend to put detailed citations in my genealogy posts and for some time have felt quite wary (intimidated perhaps) about casually sharing my research on Virtual Dime Museum. But maybe in 2012 I'll get back to it more :)

Dianne Bergstedt FSA Scot said...

Well said, Polly, and thank you!

BDM said...

Yes! Thank you, Polly. You did make me relax for the weekend!
- Brenda

Harold said...

I know I'm going to try to set a better example on my blog -- both of politeness and not generalizing, and also of citing my sources (assuming I have some!). It's just common sense.

Polly Kimmitt said...

Thanks, everyone, for your very kind comments. Perhaps it just isn't repeated enough that genealogy at every level is a great contribution to our history. Sources are important at a certain level of writing, but secondary to the message. I would hate to see people stop blogging because one well-meaning (and I think this is the case) genealogist doesn't understand the effect his message is having. Everyone needs to feel the love!

Sheri Fenley said...

Polly Dahling,

When I announced on my blog that I was going to start the clock to submit my portfolio to BCG, I had more than one person make the comment - "Really, you do serious research worthy of submission to BCG" and "Are you going undercover or something or do you have a ghost writer"

I told them to bite me. The end.

We can have the best of both worlds and anyone who tells us we can't doesn't know us very well at all!

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thank you, Polly, for the main post, and the comment, above. To me, this said a lot: "The nature of blogging is casual, transient and in my opinion only one step away from email or writing in a diary." Thank you, again. You have certainly described my blogs. I wouldn't be writing them if they weren't. ;-)

Geolover said...

Your eminently sensible post reminds me of my reaction after (accidentally) reading around the 387th message board item castigating nuttiness in internet trees. Number one, we do the best we can. Number two, each of us has different objectives. Number three, it does take some experience and maturity to learn to suit method to objective. And number four, most of us are always learning - sometimes about improving detail, but also sometimes about how to get to the essentials in the available amount of time.

I myself am re-learning that it is much more important to facilitate opening windows and doors, than to proclaim in what way I "know more" than someone else.