[APG Public List] Who Are We, Really?

LBoswell laboswell at rogers.com
Mon Oct 5 05:38:48 MDT 2009

Carol, Can't disagree with this entirely except that, with respect, I wish the term "theory" wouldn't be used for what are more accurately non-theoretical issues concerning research method and practice. If we drop terms like 'theory' and 'theoretical' at every turn, it's no wonder they're often misundersood. 

The GPS is portrayed as a "proof standard" when it would be more useful if rephrased as 'guidelines to effective research'.  Calling it a 'proof standard' in my opinion is counter-productive.  "Have I met the GPS" becomes the goal, and that's not a problem for an experienced researcher. But having a focus on a supposed external measure such as this supposed "proof standard" is a problem for a beginning researcher, whether one who does genealogy also for pure enjoyment or one with aspirations of eventually working professionally.  "Supposed" in my opinion...

Many of the so-called 'hobbyists' that I've talked to over the years have great interest in learning how to do more effective research. Why wouldn't they?  They're intelligent people (most individuals who pursue genealogy are). They may not have the time to invest in genealogy that some of us have, but don't underestimate their interest in finding credible results. Many hobbyists have professional level research skills. Their interest may also include a large dash of enjoyment (and enjoyment is something that some professionals don't give enough weight to, IMO), but that doesn't mean they are interested in creating fictions. Or simply going willy-nilly through the records.  Besides, instructor worth his/her salt, whether teaching hobbyists or professionals, usually also lays out basic research approaches. How could they describe the records and sources otherwise?

No need for a proof standard, not as currently set up. And the divide between "hobbyist" and "professionals" is not so much a gap, rather it's a continuum.  Any division imposed is simply an arbitrary one.


But we also have to remember that there are many "hobbyist genealogists" who simply want to do their research for fun and despite our constant harping on the "right" way to do it and the GPS, they're simply not interested. They're happy with what they're doing. All they want is a class in doing Irish Research, for example, and none of that dad-gummed theory stuff! That doesn't make me any happier than it makes y'all, but it's the truth.

Regards, Carolyn
Carolyn Earle Billingsley, Ph.D.
APG member, Lone Star Chapter

Barbara Mathews wrote: 
I sometimes think that it's not the History Departments we should be trying
to engage at the college level, but the Anthropology Departments as domestic
(i.e., home-based) anthropologists. We could all go for Ph.D.'s in kinship
determination if only we were doing it in Bora Bora.

But, look (and here is where I will really be a lightening rod), where are
we as a "profession" if the Genealogical Proof Standard isn't even widely
accepted or even known? That underlying common stringent methodology for
evaluation and thesis-testing is missing from the repertoire of many
conference attendees. That is why our national conferences look and feel so

Yours, Barbara Mathews



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