Yesterday was the final day of GenStock 2015, a three-day retreat for professional genealogists. GenStock was the brainchild of Billie Fogarty and Matthew McCormack who managed to bring to fruition a dreamy vision first conjured up 18 months ago after years of what-ifs discussed at conventional genealogical conferences.
- What if we could get together for longer periods of time, without the distractions of conference work? In a really relaxing, casual place?
- What if we had time to really explore the state of the field of genealogy? And to examine what constitutes being professional in our field?
- What if we had input not only from well established genealogists but also from newer professionals with the potential to imbue our community with new ideas and more energy?
- What if we could view one another as colleagues instead of competitors?
- What if we could find a way to give newer professionals the acknowledgement they often deserve without thinking they need to "come up the hard way," like we did.
Matt and Billie had no idea whether people would come. So hard to get to, no nearby repository to justify the expense of the trip. Early details were vague as they wisely left it to the greater group to discover its own purpose. Invitations were awkward. It would be impossible to invite every serious professional, so they introduced it in phases, enlarging the "guest list" each time, and eventually extending the invitation to all serious professionals, telling us, "invite colleagues you think would enjoy it." Still, a risky undertaking and some feelings were hurt, but I suppose that was unavoidable.
The resulting mix was 20 people that normally would not be thrown together like that: some nationally known, others pretty new to the scene; old and young, taking clients and not. So over the course of three days on Matt's beautiful farm in Alpena we gathered to share and learn. And now we want to disseminate what we concluded.
The first words out of Billie's mouth were, "There are no wrong answers here." She set a tone of warm acceptance and no one violated that, to my knowledge. I did not hear any sniping and I must say it felt really nice after three days of constant discussions not to witness any animosity.
Colleagues want to know what we learned. I learned very little. But I stopped to dwell on some things that I've already recognized, but have not worked toward improving, and I will do so in the future.
- Our awareness of others generally results from them being outstanding students in a course, being on the lecture circuit, being introduced by another colleague, or writing for journals. Many superior genealogists do not fall into any of those neat little boxes, and there are colleagues we may never have heard of who do great work.
- Our colleagues can be supportive and encouraging when relieved of their fears and gently massaged in that direction.
- Experience in the field of genealogy is not the only criterion by which professionals should be judged. Those transitioning over from other professions may have research, writing and analysis skills that put them way ahead of the game. Advanced courses and the proliferation of primary information on the web speeds up their learning curve tremendously.
- People are their own worse enemies, usually from insecurity. The cure is to date to reach out, share your concerns about yourself and soon enough your colleagues will help you overcome that barrier.
I did learn one thing. I finally got it through my thick skull that the SLIG Practicum is extremely useful, even (especially!!) for the advanced genealogist. So I am going to be brave and go for it in January. I'm secretly (not so much secretly after this) afraid that I won't solve any of them, but must admit that's probably not going to happen. I think if all of us could do just one think we're nervous or insecure about we'd all be a lot better off, so that's mine.
Billie and Matt, you have created a beautiful thing. You laid the ground work and then let it grow organically into an entity which will positively impact our field. Thank you for that. For those of you that did not attend, there WILL be a GenStock 2016, so stay tuned.