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From: Eva Goodwin <>
Subject: [TGF] introduction and thoughts from a young genealogist!
Date: Mon, 28 May 2012 12:50:37 -0700


Hello all,


Fairly new to the list and just wanting to introduce myself. I've been
lurking for a few months and have benefited greatly from the conversations
and information-sharing that happens here. Thank you!

I'm 25 years old and have been doing genealogy as a hobby for, oh, about 15
years! Of course I have become more serious in the past 6-7 years, and that
is largely thanks to Ancestry.com which was my "hook" into serious
research. But I have been obsessed with history and memory for as long as I
can remember, fueled originally by a number of family items that have
passed down my maternal line (from 3rd-great-grandmother through daughters,
down to me), including several scrapbooks from my 2nd-great-grandmother
that include a family tree of her maternal line. These items and
Ancestry.com were the jumping off points for my research but in the past 3
years I have branched out way beyond that and have been studying and
applying the BCG standards to my research with the eventual goal being to
become certified. It's an exciting process. I'm also enrolled right now in
the American Records certificate program at the National Institute for
Genealogical Studies in Toronto (I chose that one because they also have a
lot of Canadian records electives, and since I'm half Canadian that seemed
smart). But I'd like to possibly do other courses too, perhaps BU or even
eventually the Samford Institute.

I attended the NGS conference in Cincinnati several weeks ago and learned a
lot and had a fabulous time. I have a few remarks that I thought I'd share
to the list. I was one of the few people under 40 that I spotted at the
entire event, and was probably the only one under 30 (though there might've
been another 1 or 2 that I just never glimpsed). I found that pretty
dismaying. I think it's an unfortunate generational disconnect that I hope
will start changing over the next few years. I received quite a few
condescending remarks (e.g., "you're too young to be doing genealogy"
followed by popcorn-style "quizzing" on my knowledge around county
formation dates, etc. by one gentleman) but also many more welcoming ones.
People seemed mostly thrilled to see a young person there. But for all that
people said things like "it's so great to see you here, we need more young
people to be doing this!" not a single person asked me questions about why
I was interested in genealogy, what drew me to it, and what about it feels
relevant to me as a young person. It seems to me that, yes, young people
often lack the perspective of time, history, and family that often comes
with age. And it seemed to me that most of the people at the conference
that I talked to also lacked any curiosity about how to bring young people
in more - I was more of an oddity than someone to take seriously. And I
really think that's a conversation worth having. I think that the embracing
of technology and Web 2.0, apps, and all the newfangled web-fads is
fantastic and will certainly help hook the youngins - but I still found a
lot of the tech-focused conversations to be around a kind of usability that
doesn't feel super relevant for my generation. I'm excited to see where web
and software developers can take us in the next few years and I hope that
more and more talented developers will focus on genealogy-related apps,
because a lot of the softwares and programs that are available now feel
quite old-school - which is absolutely not to harp on them or their
functionality, at all. But is just to remark that something that feels
intuitive for a computer-user who was reared in the 90s and early 2000s
(like me) is probably quite different from something that feels intuitive
for someone who is being reared now, or for someone who was reared in the
70s and 80s.

I also think that there's more of a philosophical hook, though. Beyond
technology. And that is: why do we even *do* family history? I think the
misconception that a lot of young people have is that it's either (a) to
prove pedigree, or (b) to deal with nostalgia for "olden days" or to hold
onto something that's bygone. I think that both of these things have
elements of truth, but I definitely think that these are gross
misconceptions of why it is that we do family history research. But I found
that conversation largely absent at the conference and I think it's one
that needs to happen. (I should note that I'm SURE these conversations ARE
happening, I just don't know where, and I would LOVE to participate in them
if folks point me in the right direction!) In a world that is increasingly
mobile, in which people move around more than ever, in which definitions of
family are rapidly changing (as a queer person myself, this is even more
true for me than perhaps others), and in which community more and more is
fostered virtually rather than locally, I think that genealogists need to
be super excited about how to work WITH this. People in my generation who
are so mobile and unrooted aren't interested in proving that they are
Mayflower descendants, but we ARE interested in understanding who we are
and where we come from in a rapidly changing world. We want to feel placed,
we want to feel like we understand our identity as everything around us is
shifting so quickly and as the places we live are often not really "home."
We also want, I think (or I do anyway) to learn about our
shifting-communities, in all their complexities, and in ways that expand
beyond family, beyond facts about individual lives, to get to a sense of
what our lives in the world mean, who has preceded us, and how we want to
move through our lives. That's what it all means to me. I know I'm not
saying anything new here - I'm just excited that the conference prompted me
to think about all of this.

The session at the conference that I was most excited by was Elizabeth
Shown Mills's presentation on organizing research around the "FAN club."
(That was on Saturday, I think.) It opens room for thinking about the
importance of people other than the family members and for understanding
the community as a whole, and not just an individual person's life. I know
that this is something that good genealogists have done for a long time.
It's something that I have done too, but this session in particular helped
me think about how doing that is not JUST so that I can understand my
ancestors' individual lives better -- it's about understanding the
communities they came from, who they might've been, and how that laid the
groundwork for the world I live in now.

I'll end. This was a terribly long-winded introduction, I apologize! I am
excited about continuing this work and am excited too about continuing to
show up in genealogy spaces and having these conversations that I so badly
want to have with you all.

Kind regards,

Eva


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