There’s room for everyone

24 November 2014

The world of family, local and social history has grown exponentially over the last decade in particular. Whilst the commercial sites are expanding with newly digitised record sets being added (seemingly) every week, there are a whole host of people out there called ‘professional genealogists’. When I first dipped my toes into the water and undertook research for others, there was not a cat-in-hell’s chance of me giving myself such a title. And it is a title I have often marvelled at…. similar to calling oneself an estate agent, it is one of a small handful of professions which are ‘self-titled’. You can set up as an estate agent without having any qualifications or even experience and the same is – sadly – true of genealogy. Does having a qualification make you better at the job than the next wo/man? Well, that’s a discussion for another day….

Ten years ago, few people were able to make a living out of researching in this field. There weren’t many probate researchers (‘Heir Hunters’) and the lecturing circuit saw the same (sorry) old faces over and over again. That is not the case today. Every time I pick up Who Do You Think You Are and Family Tree magazines, new names are listed as article authors. When I see a lecture schedule for a conference, seminar or workshop, it’s great to see some ‘newbies’ coming onto the scene alongside some of the genies of longer standing.

Some people have a niche, specialising in Scottish research, military ancestors, our criminal forebears or whatever. Some people have a general genealogical knowledge base.

Some people are on social media all the time, tweeting about the latest news and helping other researchers. Some people don’t use modern technologies and social networking channels.

Some people volunteer their time to help run societies, bringing together like-minded people who share a similar interest. Some people don’t feel that they have the time or expertise to offer to help in this way.

But whatever people do in the field of family, local and social history, there is room for everyone. No one has the right to exclude a fellow professional from what they perceive as ‘their arena’. However, we should also do our utmost not to step on each other’s toes if we have a particular function within an organisation. If you were contracted to write about burials for a publisher, then you would not expect a fellow genie/historian to write on the same topic!

Come on ladies and gentleman! Etiquette (not netiquette) is required here. Call yourself a professional genealogist? Then you should act professionally too.

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