Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are You a Genealogist?

For some time now I have pondered the use of the word or title of "genealogist." The dictionary gives the meaning as someone who studies, traces or records the descent of a person or family from an ancestor generation by generation. Does that term apply to all of us who spend our time looking for our ancestors and studying that family history?

Surely in this profession there are those who consider many of us only to be amateurs, not yet worthy to wear the title of genealogist and indeed many of us are just that...amateurs, but calling oneself a genealogist does not come lightly to most of us who seek those family connections of the past. It is my personal belief that anyone who strives to pursue his goals or trade can carry the title of that trade. Being an apprentice shoemaker or a young chemist in the lab still makes that person deserved of his title of cobbler or scientist. A "rock-hound" can hold his title whether he seeks that precious gemstone once a week or digs in the dirt for it everyday. Of course there are exceptions i.e. the medical Doctor and many other titles reserved for those who have attained a degree of higher learning and those of professional standing.

I recently had an older gentleman in my circle of friends from our fledgling genealogy society ask if I was a genealogist. My answer to that question was "yes...while I am not a professional genealogist, I am one just the same and so are you. You are here every week, working hard to bring your family history to light so don't be afraid to call yourself a genealogist."He was excited at the aspect of being part of the family of genealogists. If you love family history and care enough to find and honor your ancestors--you too are a genealogist!

No matter if you are a newbie to the group, wear your title proudly as you strive to ascend the ladder to perfection with your research goals. Two great people in my life also wear the title of Genealogist. One is the You Go Genealogy Girl #1, Ruby...she is an official Professional Genealogist; the other is my mother-in-law, Kathleen, while not a professional in title she has been doing genealogy research for over 50 years and I value equally the knowledge and help that both have given me.  You can learn from those around you, both the professionals and those who are not. Value all the genealogists that you become acquainted with as new and different ideas are what keeps us all moving forward. Stuck in a rut? I bet that asking anyone you know who is a "genealogist" will help to get the answer. I've never met a more caring and sharing group of people than those who  proudly admit that they are a genealogist whether they are just beginners or seasoned veterans in the field.

One of the best speeches that I have heard in a long time was given recently by Curt Witcher at the RootsTech Conference. Most of us did not get to attend but his wonderful presentation is offered online and should not be missed by any "genealogist." You can find his video here and I highly recommend that if you have not seen it, take an hour, grab a refreshing drink and listen in. One important area (among several others) was when he eluded to the fact that the often overlooked aspects of the genealogy profession  today is to have fun while  finding your family roots. The operable idea here is to have fun and ultimately to be able to leave a legacy for our own family to share and enjoy.

That brings us back to the title of "genealogist"....be proud of adding that title to your own name. Don't worry about getting everything just perfect when it comes to researching and record keeping. Perfection usually only comes along to a select few in real life, no matter the profession, but that should not keep anyone from trying. Research your family history, strive to do it correctly, but most of all you should love the hunt and the rewards that come along the way. If we show our children and grandchildren what fun it can be to search for our ancestors, even if it isn't the perceived perfect way then maybe they too will want to take up where we leave off and become the next generation, the next genealogist in our family.

You Go Genealogy Girl #2--Cheri 

Lady and boy element in the scrap page is from the designs of  "Idgie's Heartsong" of Heritage Scrap


  1. Wow, can you read minds? I have been musing over this exact same topic for a couple of days now. I so totally agree with you. Thank you for writing this . . now I don't have to :)

  2. As long as the research is being done correctly (with citations and an understanding of proper sourcing), I find it convenient to simply differentiate between "vocation" and "avocation." I have no trouble admitting I am a hobbyist genealogist.

  3. Thanks Sheri, I've been pondering this ever since the RootsTech "live presentation" day. We all strive to do the best we can and that includes our sources and citations but I hate to see someone quit or get discouraged because they didn't do something perfectly or forgot to get a source down for posterity(I've heard that said more than once.) Those ancestors just want to be found and honored, they don't care what "page" they were on and for that matter, neither do my Granddaughters, at least NOT for now. They just want to see and learn and that is what is important to me. The rest will be there when the time comes that their interest requires more detail, maybe not 100% perfect but it will be there and we will have "had fun" along the way.

  4. Cheri - I love reading your blog and I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award. Firstly - the name....love it! And the blog is a great read too! Please pass along my thanks to YGG #1.

    Best regards,
    Cindy Harris

  5. Great post, Cheri. I agree. Well done. ;-)



Find a Grave

Search 31.6 million cemetery records at by entering a surname and clicking search: