Genealogy Requires Actual Research Skills

I like this article by James Tanner. Actually, I like most articles by James Tanner, but this one in particular.

In a nutshell, “I am not denigrating genealogy in any way, I just think that the subject of doing genealogical research needs to be upgraded from a pastime to a serious pursuit on the same level as any other academic study such as engineering, linguistics, or medieval studies.

Maybe I’m just feeling a little virtuous here.

The fact is that doing research of any kind is a technical, learned activity. Some people have innate talents that assist them in being “good” researchers but the only way someone learns how to do research is by doing it. Some schooling, including advanced university degrees in just about any subject, will help but competency in research is a bundle of skills that are learned over time. You may see a child prodigy who can play the piano at age three or four, but you will not see a child prodigy who can manage a major research project like those commonly encountered in searching historical documents for your ancestors.

This has been an unacknowledged problem on some of the collaborative websites where I’ve been working the last 10 years. I keep running into a general attitude, “My opinion is just as good as yours”. (No. No, it’s not. You took history in high school, and now you’ve read some pseudo-history. I have 40+ years of actual research in primary sources, a bachelor’s degree in the stuff, and a significant amount of graduate work, albeit with a J.D. rather than an M.A. in History.)

I’m tired of arguing with idiots. When the mood passes, I’ll be back doing real research.

%d bloggers like this: