To Alleviate or Elevate the Euroamerican Genealogy Fever
2. Feeding the Fever
2.1. Genealogy as Culture
This warning echoes the pathological debate above and also frames the relationship between expert advisors and hobbyist consumers. Such a definition of roles reinforces the themes that Mills critiqued in 2003 when applied in a cultural paintbrush across genealogy. A drive to be helpful and relevant leads commercial companies to offer tools and strategies.Once you’ve been bitten by the bug you’ll find it hard to stop. Read these articles to discover expert research techniques and enjoy the hobby even more.2
This offering is heavy with laden terms that set and potentially limit expectation, for instance ‘pedigree’ which speaks of bloodlines, which in a society still pre-loaded with patriarchy directs attention to male lineages. Other commercial genealogy company advice directs the user to consider siblings and seek to discover the original names of brides. This entry level learning then is settled within an overall framing of genealogy as a series of nuclear-family households.Family Group Sheet—Each piece of information concerning a pedigree ancestor and his/her family is placed on a worksheet. Since the result of your research efforts will be to compile complete, correct and connected families, the use of family group sheets from the beginning will make the compilation much easier.
Genealogy allows people to personalise the past, genealogists have told me: ‘I hated history at school. It was just a series of dates with no connection to my life.’ But then they’ve discovered that their great uncle won a medal during the First World War, and the place where he fought immediately becomes more than just another battlefield.5
2.2. Genealogist Profession
She went on to identify that even on the occasions when historians stepped forward to pass positive light on the work of genealogists, it was often a backhanded compliment. The proffered cure for the condition was to educate the genealogist as a professional to bring them in line with historians and archivists. The latter of which had undergone a process of professionalisation in recent decades. Mills’ agenda from fifteen years ago was to develop generational history through a professionalisation based upon scholarship rather than accountability to consumers, as a means to draw distinctions between collectors of names, compilers of lineage references and scholars of how people lived as and through family networks.We now stand at a threshold and face a critical choice. Are we content for other disciplines to dismiss genealogy as an “ego trip”—History Lite? Will we accept a role some others propose for us—that of Data Sweeper, mere drudge labor to boost the productivity of “real” historians?
Noticeably, what underpins the prescription is a remedy that is focused on fixing the genealogist as the fever creates an environment in which they are disrespected. The deleterious elements she identified, a deep-rooted outmoded and outdated prejudice from academic history, actually infects the non-genealogist.This proposed identity should distinguish our discipline from the gathering of names and creation of databases that has come to characterize “genealogy” in both popular and academic minds. Adopting the term, however, would carry responsibility…1. meet the historical profession’s definition of “historian”—an individual with some formal education in history, who practices history through research or teaching;2. possess earned credentials in genealogy (certification or accreditation) and, as such programs develop, pursue coursework and degrees in generational history;3. publish their research in peer-reviewed journals whose essays meet the standards set for scholarship by the academic world
Credentials—our researchers are handpicked, tested and trained to ensure they meet our unwavering commitment to quality. Our researchers possess four-year degrees in Family History and Genealogy, accreditations, or decades of experience, and share a passion for genealogy research.8
In a commercially sound fashion, it is embedded into spaces likely to be noticed by tree-climbers, often taking the form of lineage-maker genealogists seeking to monetise their skills, discussing courses from which they draw credentials.10 The question is whether, by design or by default, hobbyist tree-climbers have been exposed to the genealogical culture of professionalism that may have influenced perceptions.I acknowledged overlaps with social and political history, but the trained genealogist in me always drew me back to the individuals in these big histories. It put the flesh on the bones.9
2.3. British Manifestation
RQG stresses that its members,The report you receive from a professional genealogist should give details of the research you requested plus a description of the work carried out, including full references of any records consulted. Copies of relevant records are usually supplied. A conclusion and suggestions for further research should also be given.13
Operating at post-graduate level they take already experienced, mature students and expose them to systematic methods of investigation and critical analysis of results so they can deliver quality outcomes from any research.
A professional scholarly agenda though is more evident in the aims and objectives of RQG’s peer-reviewed journal. The pressure of professionalism with a reliance on accredited learning, if not formal education was captured by James Hansen, a Mills collaborator in 2001. In the introduction to Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, lecturers and librarians, he stressed a distinction between experienced genealogists and the professional (Mills 2001).Graduates emerge with a good understanding of all relevant disciplines and with the confidence to tackle all aspects of even the most wide-ranging projects, and to report on findings clearly and succinctly.
2.4. Before the Famine
2.4.1. Feast upon the Fever Repast
2.4.2. Unwitting Contribution
3. Servicing the Fever
3.1. Handle with Care
The Kindred Britain project is a useful example of this (Jenkins n.d.)16.However, academic genealogy is not merely an independent discipline, but rather a research field that juxtaposes many disciplines, like history, geography, literature, computer science, information science, linguistics.
3.2. Visualising Genealogy Outputs
If the former is true, then genealogies on a large scale merely present a useful pre-built extensive and complex set of data to test proposed technology against for application elsewhere. If the latter is true and the systems are a useful addition to genealogy, then what is the purpose of being able to appreciate and analyse genealogies outside of the context of family domestic households and groups.There have been many methods proposed to visualize the family trees. The most widespread visualizations are based on node-link diagrams, which focus on the layout of the family tree structure to explore the relationships among persons.
Unfortunately, Kindred Britain and other projects have overlooked the anthropological and continental European challenges to notions of Euroamerican kinship in their design concept. The GeneaQuilts team pointed to a classic conundrum of this, the idea of the family of England’s Henry VIII. Both the product of a commercial genealogical company and GeneaQuilts would group the 1520–1540 Tudor Royals as a family, which is simply an unsustainable correlation with understandings in recent centuries. Therefore, genealogical education needs to be careful not to reinforce dubious notions of the family, patrilineage or bloodline in the public discourse. Joseph Amato was keen that it should be understood that the formed social institution of the family was preceded by concepts of different social belongings anchored to collectivity and locality. Amato challenged genealogists indiscriminately to, ‘discard the regressive search for noble origins and pure lineages, we come to know ourselves literally as the makers of our family and the definers of family tradition.’ This leaves the following questions: What is genealogy if it is something other than the collecting of names, dates and interlinked egos? What is disguised by the fuzzy language of kinship, family, relatedness, cousin, mother, brother (Hirschfeld 1986, pp. 217–42), that those who practice genealogy can assist to resolve by interrogating their outputs?Only over the courses of centuries, starting with the wealthy, has the family been transformed into a social institution that fostered the individual and the intimate person.
4. Final Thoughts
The uncertain position and status that a professional education was meant to address for the genealogy of a scholarly character has not occurred within the British and Irish contexts. As the prescribed cure for marginalised genealogy was not directed at the pathology, the historian, but at its victim, the genealogist, the lack of progress is unsurprising. That other fields of academia are more than willing to put scholarly level genealogy at the heart of vast, sprawling projects ought to be inspiring. The challenge is then to develop genealogical education that produces outputs and outcomes through multi-disciplinary efforts that deepen knowledge of past and present societies.Genealogy is a branch of history and worthy of proper study, although this is still disputed by a majority of academic historians.
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|Mills’ Subgroups||Subgroups Defined by Outputs||Core Educational Concepts|
|Tree-climbers||Armchair builders of vast webs|
|Lineage-makers||Service providers and producers of material for the genealogy market|
|Generational Historians||Genealogy with scholarly impact|
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Riddell, I. To Alleviate or Elevate the Euroamerican Genealogy Fever. Genealogy 2018, 2, 12. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy2010012
Riddell I. To Alleviate or Elevate the Euroamerican Genealogy Fever. Genealogy. 2018; 2(1):12. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy2010012Chicago/Turabian Style
Riddell, Iain. 2018. "To Alleviate or Elevate the Euroamerican Genealogy Fever" Genealogy 2, no. 1: 12. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy2010012