Category Archives: Leaving it better than we found it

The Golden Rule of Genealogy Volunteerism

Golden Rule VolunteerismThe Golden Rule — the law of reciprocity — offers a great maxim to apply to our world of genealogy. Most of us live far from the places our ancestors lived. We depend on others to make the local records safe, organized, and available — preferably in digital online form. The Golden Rule suggests we first do for others what we hope they’ll do for us. How many of us are doing that?

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Descendants of slaveholders, we have a job to do

Some of you started long ago. I started six months ago. Perhaps some of you will start today. When it comes to the very difficult and incredibly rewarding challenge of documenting America’s enslaved populations, we who descend from slaveholders are the logical ones to do the work.  It makes sense at so many levels. Welcome, GEGs, to the Beyond Kin Project. Continue reading Descendants of slaveholders, we have a job to do

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What’s in a name? Conflicting practicalities.

In genealogy,  a rose by any other name may not smell sweet. A feud broils over what is acceptable, when it comes to naming conventions. Do you use question marks for unknown portions of a name? Do you write helpful information in the suffix field? Congratulations, we’ll call you a Montague! Do you get annoyed when you see people doing the above, fearing trashy data transfers — a messed-up GEDCOM? You, friend, we’ll call a Capulet. In determining how to use the name fields in our software, we find ourselves having to choose the house of Montague or Capulet — expedient practicality or clean data sharing. Some want both, and we call ourselves GEGs. Starry-eyed GEG I may be, but with the right tools and rules, I think Romeo and Juliet can have a future together.

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FamilySearch, same-sex marriage, and the risk of obsolescence

We genealogists use family trees to reflect the past, not to morally judge it. Our trees contain many family situations our churches then and now have disavowed. But we’re the historians of families; it is our job to gather, interpret, and present facts. In FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT), I can reflect unwed parents, infidelity, common law marriage, and even incest. But FSFT blocks me from recording the legal marriage of two men. As a historian, I then have a problem: FSFT, great gift to the world that it has been, now risks obsolescence. (Welcome to my newest, and rather disturbing, addition to the Wish I’d Known Series.) Continue reading FamilySearch, same-sex marriage, and the risk of obsolescence

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There are hobbies, then there’s genealogy

There are hobbies, then there's genealogyI’ll grant you, genealogy is a hobby to many, and I am glad we have the hobbyists in our numbers. The more the merrier. But when I think of genealogy, as applied to myself, the word “hobby” grates on my sensibilities. For me, it is the wrong word. The wrong idea altogether. Genealogy means so much more to me than that. How do I give it proper tribute? If I can’t stomach saying, “Genealogy is my hobby,” what can I say? Genealogy is my … what?

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Childless siblings & empty silhouettes

Childless Siblings & Empty SilhouettesSome of us will never be ancestors. We have no descendants. We died too young, or we married too old. We stayed single and took care of our parents or stayed single just because. Or married and couldn’t or married and didn’t. For any number of reasons or none, we died childless. So, who will tell our story?

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The avocational genealogist’s code of ethics

The Ethics of Genealogy_Summary ImageI’ve heard it again and again from my fellow GEGs. “I’m not a professional genealogist, but I want to be as good as one.” Perhaps we should begin by adopting their moral compass. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) requires its members to agree to a Code of Ethics. If avocational genealogists adapted the code to their own work, how might it look? Continue reading The avocational genealogist’s code of ethics

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The helps and hazards of speculative Ancestry tree climbing

Speculative Tree Climbing in Genealogy -- A Kitten Up a Tree

Remember when we  Golden Egg Genealogists (GEGs) were innocent kittens? We could extend a family line back to the Mayflower over a weekend, thanks to those oh-so-helpful “Ancestry Member Trees” on Ancestry.com. Many of us built our early trees on those shaky branches. Here and there we might have speculated on possible family connections, adding them to the tree in an effort to chip away at a brick wall. Helpful! Then we grew into GEGs and started doing genealogy right, swearing we’d go back eventually and clean up that old mess. One day, though, we realized that a new batch of kittens were copying our oh-so-helpful and oh-so-public “Ancestry Member Trees.”  Uh-oh. Continue reading The helps and hazards of speculative Ancestry tree climbing

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FamilySearch Indexing Volunteers

You know you’re GEG-bound when you want to give back. Finding time to do volunteer work in genealogy can be a challenge, though. What if I told you I volunteer from the comfort of my home, in my pajamas, in the middle of the night? I volunteer for 15 minutes at a time, if that’s what I have. Better yet, I volunteer to read fascinating historical documents that few people have ever seen. FamilySearch Indexing offers me that opportunity to pay it forward . . . one document at a time. And you can share this privilege.
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Multi-great style or the great-great-great tongue-twister

Multi-great style_Great-great-great_Summary ImageWhat label do I attach to a great-great-great-grandmother in speech and in writing? Because, let’s face it, “great-great-great-grandmother” is just a ridiculous mouthful. Do I say “3-times-great-grandmother”? “Third-great-grandmother”? Or, more concisely in writing, “3rd-great-grandmother”? Do I need the hyphens? Does the genealogy field have a standard?

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