Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It Isn't Personal: It's about the Work Product

This blog has as its focus how I assess the quality of the genealogical work that I see and use. By putting this focus on quality, I learn about what makes some work more reliable or credible that other work. This is not and will not become a discussion about any particular genealogist. Genealogists will appear in the blog only in the context of citations as authors, compilers, editors, and web-based site managers.

I was concerned that I as well as any people who commented on my posts would keep this in mind. For that reason, in setting up the blog, I required that commenters identify themselves. I also required that all comments be approved by me before posting. I did not, however, make my focus on work products completely clear at the outset.

I have permitted a few comments to post that discussed genealogists by name as researchers and as friends. These comments were positive. In the future, however, I most likely will not permit future comments about genealogists to be posted for the public.

My viewpoint about the genealogists who are authors, compilers, editors, and researchers includes these two strong views:
  • I believe that all genealogists pursue their research with the intent to do that work well.
  • I am appreciative and grateful to all genealogists who share their work with others, whether in print or on the web.
I have more beliefs than just these. I have beliefs that stem from the process of research and the process of learning. My other beliefs about this are:
  • I believe that all researchers (especially including me) grow and develop as we go along. We gather experience, attend society meetings, take classes and courses, and become measurably better each year.
  • I believe that -- when I look back at my older work -- I see many places where it should be improved.
  • I believe that the analysis of the usefulness and reliability of work by myself and by others will help me to create better genealogy work products in the future.
  • I believe that no work is ever "finished" or "final" because new original documents may come to light or new historical understandings may give us a different point-of-view.
This blog is about work products in genealogy and not about personalities. There is no need to defend our friends and colleagues. This blog will assume good intentions on the part of anyone whose work we review.


  1. In reading your previous posts, I have assumed your assumed good intentions. The posts seemed to me to focus on the work and the standards applied.
    I am comparatively new at genealogy but have always striven for quality (as I understood it), probably because of a 30-year background as a copy-editor in textbook publishing.
    This summer I revisited Val Greenwood's "The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy" in connection with an online study group. The first four chapters have caused me to return to my own research and redo some of the work.
    This comes about because continuous study has allowed me to understand Greenwood's work in ways I was just too new to recognize when I first studied it.
    Which is intended to reinforce your statement that we continue to study and to grow.
    Some of the information I am now reviewing has been posted on three on-line trees. I have a choice: do I correct my entire body of private work and then go online and correct the public trees? Or do I make across-the-board corrections on a person-by-person basis?
    I am opting for the first choice because I feel that it will be more efficient (and because I feel that the published work is weak rather than unsupported). Maybe that's not the best choice, but any worker must choose what seems to be the most efficient path for that worker.

  2. Barbara, I couldn't agree more with your viewpoints and beliefs. For those of us with decades of research behind us, it's often painful (but imperative) to review and re-do "old" research. Also, with a blog where I want to be less formal in language for non-genie family, I am still working there on citations to find a personally satisfying and consistent format (comfort level?). Will I go back and change all my earlier fumbles and inconsistencies? Probably not. Somehow it's a record of progress. Speaking optimistically :-)

  3. I totally agree with your comments about 'researchers growing and developing' and 'new documents coming to light'. If I am not able to solve a client's research problem, I make a note of it in an 'Unsolved Cases' file. Every year or two I review that file. New indexes are being created all the time; old indexes are being corrected; documents that were closed to the public are now open; and I am constantly learning about sources that I had not previously used. As an example... I recently found the answer to a client's long-term 'brick wall' in just ten minutes, thanks to the release of searchable digitised Police Gazettes!