Recently, there was a post on the Transitional Genealogists Forum from a young twenty-something genealogist that has sparked a lot of great conversation. If you haven’t read the post yet, you should read it here.
Reading about Eva’s experiences as a young genealogist, especially her experience while at NGS this year, I realized how much I can relate to her. Her experiences sounded eerily similar to my own and I could definitely feel for her.
I was very lucky with my first conference. Going to SCGS Jamboree in 2009 was a wonderful experience and nearly everyone I met was kind, funny, knowledgeable. People were certainly surprised that I was there but no one made me feel as if I was not knowledgeable about genealogy simply because of my age. People remarked how shocked they were that someone my age was here and many people wanted to know why I was so interested in genealogy. Many people wanted to quiz me on how to get their own children, grandchildren, or other young family members into genealogy. Only one person choose to question my knowledge and practically treat me like someone with a complete lack of basic US history knowledge – and while I was polite, I quickly got away from him. But perhaps the positive conference experience was based on the fact that this conference was practically in my own backyard. Or maybe it was the fact that this was the first time I met so many bloggers in person – therefore, I already had a group of people behind me and cheering me on. Or maybe it was just that all of that didn’t phase me because the conference was just so much fun.
However, at other genealogy events, I have not been so lucky. My local society held a genealogy meeting one month that I decided to attend. From the moment I walked in the door, people treated me like a complete newbie. It wasn’t that it bothered me that people assumed I was a total newcomer to the genealogy world – but it bothered me that after I showed my pedigree charts and my notebooks and had a few discussions and yet, still, they treated me like a total newbie. The whole event was honestly embarrassing and made me never want to come back.
But fortunately, most people haven’t been that way with me. In fact, I’ve been fortunate and blessed enough to be welcomed into the community with open arms of love and acceptance. I don’t feel that anyone looks down on me or questions my skills. People have loved me for the crazy, loud, Energizer Bunny kind of person I am. I’m out there in left field a bit and wearing a tiara for most genealogy events. And yet, everyone accepts me for exactly who I am and my knowledge.
The reason why? I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I “knew” a lot of these people before I went to conferences or went to genealogy events. Thanks to my blog and social media, I already have a bit of a social media family. I knew so many genealogists before I had even met them in person. There were no awkward meetings – in fact, meeting everyone for the first time felt like I had known these people forever. We instantly connected, instantly had stuff in common and to talk about. We knew each other’s research interests and could relate to one another. It was wonderful and I’m so grateful for the technology that made it possible.
So my fellow genealogists – how do we help bring out these young kids into the world of genealogy? The young research set exists, hiding away from the crowds and just lurking on the web. What can we do as a community to get more people like Eva out in the open and comfortable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!