Equality among family history researchers

Many scenarios come to mind. When you attend a genealogy meeting and “talk genealogy” with those sitting around you, what comes to mind about the other people? Is it their home life, life style, color of their skin, political leaning, or religious affiliation? Do you consider whether they are single, married, divorced, in a relationship, gay, straight, thin, fat, tall, short, have children, or drive only a red car? I bet these things don’t come to mind. Genealogy is a great equalizer.

Yes, we might be concerned about someone’s genetics — but only to see if we might have some common genealogical background that DNA testing might help out. We might be interested in their religion if they live in a particular town and attend a particular church — but only to see if they can obtain a copy of a christening record for you.

In that conversation one person mentions that they are German and their parents came to the U.S. from Germany. Ah — you are now interested. Parents alive? Might they be able to help you translate a document?

If we ask what side the family fought on during a specific war, we aren’t asking so that we know whether to shun them, but to see what kind of knowledge about history they might be able to tell you about or where some records might be.

When visiting a library or archives, those questions in the first paragraph don’t really matter when we meet the librarian or archivist. We want to know if they have knowledge of the archives’ records from the Civil War or if one of them could help read two faded words on a document.

If someone says that their great grandfather was in prison, we don’t move to a different chair, we ask what prison and whether they were able to find any records.

As I have said many times, wouldn’t it be great if the whole world operated like this? Hate crimes, political tirades, religious persecution, and so many other things could be distant memories. It’s Family History Month. How can we get the rest of the people to think like genealogists?

Among my genealogy friends (aka genealogy family) I have tall friends, short friends, gay friends, straight friends, friends who don’t know how to drive, friends with silver cars, friends with no religious affiliation, friends with advanced degrees, friends who struggle to spell correctly, friends who are young, old, retired, and just about any other label. But labels sometimes hurt and in genealogy there are few of those. Equality is important for everyone.

© 2009 – 2014, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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5 comments on “Equality among family history researchers

  1. A thoughtful post, Paula. We ought to celebrate this more. Then again, I sometimes see the American Revolution still being replayed on a listserve! (smile)

  2. “If someone says that their great grandfather was in prison,” the response among family history researchers is usually: “Neat! What did he do?” (You mean that isn’t everyone else’s response?)

  3. Great post, Paula! I have often thought about this, and I am hoping that in our own local genealogical society, we can get more diversity and expand the resources in our collection to assist those who do not have Western or Northern European ancestry or whose ancestors have not lived in America for 400 years.

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