16 February 2011

More "Genealogy Worlds"

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings wrote an interesting post on the Three (or more!) Genealogy Worlds?. Recently I saw these worlds collide and can add a fourth world. The fourth world is "traditional, but experienced."

The "traditional, but experienced" world consists of some who haven't quite embraced the "online" and "technology" worlds described by Randy. But they are much more active in genealogical research than the "once or twice a month" folks Randy describes as "traditional." Many of these "traditional, but experienced" researchers manage small genealogical collections or branches associated with larger institutions, some review lineage society applications, some manage genealogical societies. These researchers know more than the new or casual researcher. But some are not conversant on developments in advanced genealogical research.

I attended an orientation session on resources available through a small-town East Texas facility. Most of the audience were "traditional" and a few were "online" researchers. (I was one of only two in the room who love "technology" and I still haven't advanced to the Twitter and iPhone stage.)

During the presentation the research tips offered made me realize how far apart these worlds can be. For years now the national conferences and institutes have taught that we have original and derivative sources that provide primary (firsthand) and secondary (secondhand) information that becomes direct or indirect evidence based on analysis and relevance to our research question. At the orientation outdated terms were used—primary and secondary sources were discussed. I was encouraged that the presenter did explain some records, such as death certificates, include both primary and secondary information. I was discouraged when "primary sources" were defined as government and church records and "secondary sources" as tombstones and Bible records.

Technology philosophies also collided. Advanced genealogists are taught to "write as you go." Productive researchers use a computer with a word processor open in one window to write analysis while viewing a document image on microfilm or online. Writing as you go ensures critical analysis doesn't slip your mind, saves time, and ensures you actually document the analysis before you get caught up in other tasks. At the orientation session one "traditional, but experienced" presenter wondered why anyone would bring a computer to the library where it could be stolen. Maybe she's never seen a computer lock. All three of the presenters agreed that "professional researchers use paper and pencils, not computers."

Why is this collision of worlds important? The thirty-something man sitting next to me who said he had been interested in genealogy since he was fourteen years old walked out before the end of the presentation. He lives in this small town and I have never seen him at genealogical society meetings. He is missing out on what he could learn from experienced researchers, even those who aren't using the latest terminology and technology. The older researchers are missing out on the benefits of modern technology they might learn from someone who knows what an IP address is and understands why it was relevant to a discussion of network access restrictions.

There may be more "online" and "technology" researchers than Randy estimated in his article. We don't know about them because they don't attend society meetings and maybe haven't attended national conferences due to conflicts with job and family and money. Those of us who have embraced advancements in genealogical research and technology need to make more of an effort to communicate the advantages to the "traditional, but experienced" researchers. We all need to publicize the things we learn at national conferences and institutes to those who are unable to attend. The more we all share our knowledge, whatever our experience level, the better off we all will be. And maybe we'd attract some of those younger genealogists who can keep our organizations alive when we are gone.

©2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

04 February 2011

Texas History: Myths, Facts, and a new TSLAC Digital Display

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has a new digital display celebrating the 175th anniversary of Texas independence from Mexico. Having grown up in Texas I never knew other states celebrate the date of admission to the United States. The TSLAC Web page indicates "instead Texas celebrates March 2, 1836, the date that a band of American and Mexican rebels declared independence from the autocratic rule of a distant government." I grew up learning all of those great Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto heroism stories. (And it was always pronounced san juh-sin-toe with a definite "j" sound. It wasn't until I went to Arizona that I heard san huh-sin-toe.)

TSLAC displays images of "A Dozen Documents that Made a Difference" along with transcripts and explanations of the story surrounding the document. Sometimes the true story knocks down a great Texas myth. Read the story of the "Yellow Rose of Texas" in the link displaying the passport of Emily West.

The Texas history I am learning as an adult does not exactly match what I learned as a student in Texas history classes in the 1960s and 1970s. Texans sometimes have a hard time giving up the myths. The stories are compelling. But knowing our true history, warts and all, is better than believing an untruth. If you want to read about three Texas heroes with the good and the bad traits discussed check out Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis by William C. Davis (New York: HarperPerennial, 1998). Don't miss the 160 pages of endnotes and the 26 page bibliography. There are more derivative sources than an advanced genealogist would use, but there are lots of references to newspapers, diaries, manuscript collections, and deed books, too.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved