Genealogical inclusion: not everyone has children; not everyone is short; are you leaving out some genealogy family and friends?

Genealogy is a pretty inclusive topic but not 100%. Maybe someday it will be. Audiences and presenters at classes, seminars, conferences, and institutes are made of up tall, short, skinny, wider, white, red, brown, black, gay, straight, transgender, married, single, divorced, widowed, adopted, fostered, cousins, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, men, women, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, and grands of all types. We are young, older, and in-between. Researchers, librarians, clerks, archivists, farmers, bus drivers, nurses, lawyers, and others come in all sizes and other labels, too.

I am a genealogical educator, researcher, and consultant. My clients have included married, divorced, straight, gay, a drag queen, Canadian, Native American, Saint Paulite, and almost any other designation. I am straight, married for 35 years, now divorced (not by choice), middle-aged (my brain says so), wider, and a daughter, parent, grandparent, aunt, grandaunt, niece, grandniece, and unfortunately very short woman.  What labels do you tag on yourself? Don’t forget religion, political leaning, education, and other topics, too.

My friends and colleagues in my chosen profession fit into most of the above categories. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? Labels. Sigh. But they are a fact of life. They range in age from their 20s all the way up to 80s. Plus I have a 92 year old neighbor who is a widow and today asked when I am going to do another genealogy presentation for the residents of our condo buildings.

Many years ago I would hear speakers tell audience members to talk to their parents and grandparents. I would hear them tell the researchers to preserve the family history for their children. It hit me because my grandparents were gone but I still had two aunts living. I have children, but I also have a niece, nephews, and now grands there, too. Others in the audience had no grandchildren.

We need to be more inclusive in our language as researchers, audiences, record custodians, and instructors. We might have an audience with a variety of designations, but they don’t have children and the older generations may have died. If we say, tell your children this or leave your children this legacy, we are technically leaving out much of our families and audiences. The in-laws count, too!

I am trying my best to add in a niece, nephew, aunt, cousin, or other person in my presentations. While not perfect, I will keep at it.

In more personal dealings, I try to not think of any of those labels. I do try to think about labels such as, oh they live in Salt Lake City, know more about Indiana research, or are from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin where my family lived for a short time. The other labels really don’t matter unless you are taller than I am. Then I definitely label you with an evil eye. I need 2-3 more inches in height and am jealous of you. Just kidding. Maybe.


© 2018, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

5 comments on “Genealogical inclusion: not everyone has children; not everyone is short; are you leaving out some genealogy family and friends?

  1. Thank you for writing this. I have no children, so I trace our family history for my cousins (who are now the seniors), their children and grandchildren.
    The cousins are now interested and researching, too. Once someone in a family starts looking for the ancestors, the genealogy bug does spread.

  2. Yes, Paula, you are so right on preserving our stories for “them” whoever “them” might be. When I was working on writing my Bollman family history, I was told – think of your audience; who are you writing this for? My daughter summed it up, though, by reminding me that I was first writing this story for me. I had to tell it. I had to write it. Now it is out there for all the “thems.”

  3. Yay for Paula!

    Through the years, I have been doing exactly what you recommend. Within the blink of an eye, we become the older generation. And, when there are members of the audience who have no older generation, or children, or grandchildren, I tell them that someone…somewhere will appreciate what they have done as researchers. It may be a niece or a nephew, or a far-off shirttail relative.

    But, their research will be appreciated by someone you will likely never meet.

    Good job, Paula!

  4. Very well written. I too fall in the short category and many others. Mostly what I want people to know about me is that I love doing genealogy and love to help others do theirs. Being inclusive opens up lines of communication between us and those we want to help. Even in sharing the process is more fun when we include those who have different backgrounds that we do. Keep up the good work!

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