Looking Forward When Looking Back

Over the last few days, I’ve seen some great thought provoking articles about a survey 1000Memories.com recently conducted.  In short, the results showed more people are interested in genealogy but they know less about their family history.  Read more about the survey here.  You can read Caroline Pointer’s reaction (of 4YourFamilyStory fame) here and Thomas MacEntee’s reaction (of Geneabloggers fame) here.

Now for my opinion… You should look forward when you look back.

You Shouldn’t Have to Qualify for Medicare to Research:

It seems that it is an unspoken rule that you must be retired or over a certain age to want to research your family history – and this is a rule that needs to be erased from everyone’s head.  While people think that young genealogists like myself are a rarity in the community, I would disagree.  Having a curiosity of where you come from is something that we all have inside of us, regardless of age, but not all of us become addicted obsessed with it.

In my opinion, I think there are plenty of young genealogists and family historians in the world.  But a lot of them stay in hiding, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of being treated like an amateur, feeling that their computers and technology tools are unwelcome.  How do I know?  Because prior to connecting with the online genealogy community, that is exactly how I felt.  There are still days when I go to some genealogy societies and if I ask a question or make a suggestion that challenges the status quo, I’m treated like a traitor.  Before I had my network of genealogy friends online, I would become discouraged and feel like maybe I didn’t belong in this community.

So if you are a young genealogist in hiding, you aren’t alone.  When you are ready, make yourself known on blogs, social media, at conferences, and even at a genealogy society meeting.  You will find your tribe – I promise.  And if you are having trouble, tell me.  We’ll find your tribe together.

I Don’t Care Where You Put Your Comma

I am a big supporter of source citations.  I think they are vital in doing research.  While the industry standard is to use the formats explained in Evidence Explained, I don’t care what format you use.

Your source citations need to match your end goals.  Are you trying to become a professional genealogist?  Then you better open up that book of Evidence Explained and get your citations in proper form.  Are you trying to publish a family history  book or website?  Then you better pick a citation style (whether that be Evidence Explained or APA format… I don’t care) and stick to it.  Some other researcher or descendant of yours will someday find that book and want to retrace your steps to confirm your claims.  Are you just trying to research your family tree for yourself?  Then write down enough information to be able to find that exact document again – remember that it is safer to put more information than you need than to put too little and not be able to find that source again.

When it comes to source citations, the only thing I care about is whether you have given me enough information to be able to find the source again on my own.  Your source citation needs to be clear and detailed.  I don’t care if you put the comma in the wrong place or if you use APA format instead of Evidence Explained format.  Source citations are meant to be your bread crumb trail that can lead yourself and others back to the source document – as long as it does that, I don’t care.

Embrace Technology

I’m not saying that you need to be a computer expert, but I think you have to have a basic knowledge and an openness to learn.  Find a tech savvy friend to gain some new skills.  Take classes at seminars and conferences.  Always be learning.  Always.

For the genealogy societies of the world – listen up: Get a web presence.  You need a website and it has to be updated regularly.  Use the website as your advertisement to draw potential new members in and show them the value of your society.  Keep the calendar section updated to discuss new meetings and lectures.  Consider adding pictures and copies of your newsletter too.

 

Making these changes means more people will have the opportunity to learn about how to do genealogy, which is good for everyone.

So what are your thoughts about the survey results from 1000Memories.com?

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18 Responses to Looking Forward When Looking Back

  1. I can totally relate to your experience. I’ve attended a couple different genealogy society meetings, and I’m always the youngest person there by several decades (and I’m 33!). They’re always amazed that I’m so interested in this, so willing to work at it, and to help others get into it. It’s so hard to get it across to people that you can be young (or young-ish) person and still be very much into genealogy research. Even among my friends at church (I’m LDS) some of them can’t get past the ‘that’s only for old people’ mindset. So frustrating!! There is so much interesting information to find, and so much satisfaction to be had in discovering and sharing where your roots come from.
    Maybe we need to start a young’un genealogy society, so those of us still a few decades from retirement can start coming out from under the rocks and get together, show each other that there is a large and growing number of new generation genealogists.
    Brandt Gibson´s last blog post ..Wisdom Wednesday – Shute facts

    • One of the first things I’m asked when I go to a genealogy society meeting is if I am LDS… which I’m not. Like they assume that because I’m in my 20s, I must be LDS and have a religious motive to doing the research. While I love the LDS church for collecting all of these records and making them available for free, I’m not LDS. So many people find that weird for some reason.

  2. Jennifer Holik-Urban

    Great post! I can say I used to be the youngest genealogist at meetings, about 12 years ago when I was 26. Now I’m 38 and starting to speak up to volunteer more and people are excited to have those in my age group help out. Most of the people I’m talking to are barely into social media and do not understand the impact it can have on their group or society. I guess since FGS, one of my big goals which I’m kind of accidentally stumbling into, is to encourage them to use more social media. Attract the younger folks so their societies and groups will not die off.
    I don’t know many younger genealogists but I’m doing my best to recruit my friends in Chicago who are roughly my age to get involved. I think if you offer to attend a meeting with someone, they will go because someone is going with them. Not everyone likes to attend new things alone. If they like what they see, they will join or volunteer. Sometimes all it takes is someone to befriend you and you will find your tribe. Just remember to pay it forward and bring someone else on the journey later.

  3. Spot on Elyse!
    Lynn Palermo´s last blog post ..The Moment You Knew

  4. Well written post!

    And the phrase “I Don’t Care Where You Put Your Comma” should totally be a t-shirt.
    JJT´s last blog post ..Prohibition? I’ll Drink to That!

  5. Same here. I started my research over a decade ago when I was only 19. I would get the strangest looks when someone saw me wandering through a cemetery since I must’ve been there to vandalize it. I get less weird looks now that I’m 31, but I’m still in the minority, even when talking to colleagues or close friends about what I do.
    Brian Zalewski´s last blog post ..Czech’ing Out the Records

  6. I find it hard being a young genealogist, young I guess a 31 but, in my area there’s only one genealogist group and it’s a very small building it has only information around this area they were willing to try to help but really couldnt help me much because I was looking for information on France and Canada and basically they said I would have to learn French and write to the respective counties.

    There are no other genealogy groups I know of in the area, though I’ve heard that most LDS churches have some sort of program for it, it’s not advertised. If I knew a few others in the area that would start a younger group or something I’d enjoy that, but it seams northern Cali is fairly scarce in genealogy groups.

    • Randy – The first thing you need to do is find your local Family History Center (now being renamed FamilySearch centers) that are owned and run by the LDS church. They have a ton of resources and lots of microfilm that you can rent and view. Second thing you need to do is look up the California Genealogy Society, which is based in Northern California. They have classes and seminars and would love to meet younger people. If they are a bit of a drive from you, perhaps you could make it a day trip to go? I hear they have an awesome library too.

      And if you aren’t doing anything in February, please consider going to the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City – it is *the* conference to go to in my opinion, and will have a heavy tech and genealogy focus.

  7. I got into genealogy 24 years ago, when I was only 24. I was always the youngest person at a genealogical society meeting. People were generally nice to me, but I felt they were looking at me with suspicion, thinking, “What’s SHE doing here?” Probably not, but I felt very out of place. Even a few years shy of 50, I’m still typically the youngest person at a meeting. But times have changed, and I think genealogical societies are much more welcoming of younger people. It’s a sad fact, but any group that’s comprised of only older folks will not be around for long. I’ve seen lots of groups come and go because they didn’t want to embrace the younger generation.

    @Randy, do contact CGSL, as @Elyse recommended. Very nice, dynamic group of people who will welcome you with open arms. NorCal is a big place, so it’s hard to give you any other recommendations for gensocs, but I’m sure they’re out there. Also, if you’re on Second Life, there are quite a few genealogy groups available… plus, on SL, no one really knows how old you are, so it doesn’t matter!
    Elizabeth O’Neal´s last blog post ..Tuesday’s Tip: Take Care of Your Ta-Tas

  8. There isn’t any other genealogy groups I am aware of in your community, though I’ve heard that most LDS churches have some type of program for this, it’s not advertised. Easily knew a few others in the region that would take up a younger group or something like that I’d enjoy that, but it seams northern Cali is pretty scarce in genealogy groups.
    Felise´s last blog post ..LoveNuts Love Blog

  9. I agree. I don’t care where the comma is. I just keep hoping that the special fact has some type of source note, (I’d even take the note in any foreign language), so I can check the info for reliability. Thanks.
    Karen Blackmore´s last blog post ..Thankful Thursday – Find A Grave Volunteers

  10. “You Shouldn’t Have to Qualify for Medicare to Research” – No truer words have been spoken when it comes to genealogy. I first got interested when I was about 10; I even bought a children’s book on the subject. I got into it again in my early 20s. No wonder it feels like I’ve been doing it all my life!

    I also had a bit of a reverse to your experience. I’m not LDS either, but I have a branch of my family that is. When I was young, they weren’t surprised I was into genealogy. Their assumption was that I would be joining their church as a result.

  11. I love the idea of a genealogy society for young ‘uns! Maybe we could be a virtual-only society. We could call it “The care and feeding of young genealogists” :) Ok, maybe not, but still, I think it would be helpful to let young genealogists everywhere know that they can be an influence for good and can help societies to thrive through their knowledge of technology. It goes back to what Caroline said in her article – we pair young genealogists and older genealogists together, and they mentor each other. Any other ideas on a name? If people really are interested in this we could start with a FB group and go from there….?

  12. I should have added, I’m 35 but have been interested in genealogy since I was a teenager. I was more involved for a few years in the field of personal histories, where I was also the youngest in the online community that I was a part of, but am back into genealogy now, where I am still the youngest of those I work with….

  13. Great post, Elyse! I started volunteering with CGS after I found I was welcomed with open arms. At 37yo, I’m still in the younger group of members/volunteers, but I’ve never been made to feel like I am unwelcome or unappreciated. I’d still love to see more pre-retirement genealogists get active in the society.
    However, even Oakland can be quite a trip from the far north of California (it’s a big state after all). Randy: you might check for a more local society in your county via the California State Genealogical Alliance at — I can’t guarantee the local society will be as active or as welcoming to younger members, but we’ve got to show our local societies we’re interested.
    Kim Cotton´s last blog post ..LGBT Genealogy

  14. Great post, Elyse! I started volunteering with CGS after I found I was welcomed with open arms. At 37yo, I’m still in the younger group of members/volunteers, but I’ve never been made to feel like I am unwelcome or unappreciated. I’d still love to see more pre-retirement genealogists get active in the society.
    However, even Oakland can be quite a trip from the far north of California (it’s a big state after all). Randy: you might check for a more local society in your county via the California State Genealogical Alliance at http://www.csga.com/ — I can’t guarantee the local society will be as active or as welcoming to younger members, but we’ve got to show our local societies we’re interested.
    Kim Cotton´s last blog post ..LGBT Genealogy

  15. This is a great post! Yes, I still feel like a young’un, even though I am now 47, as I have been doing genealogy for the last 22 years. I have simply come to really appreciate older people as a result of my participation in the field. I’ve now moved on to doing personal history work, too, and feel very comfortable with my clientele. This post caught my eye, as I think of doing personal histories as forward-looking in a slightly different sense: preparing materials for the decendants to come.

  16. Lovely post Elyse. Thanks for putting it together for us :)
    Salvado´s last blog post ..VLC media player free download

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