17 August 2016

Academia vs. Genealogy

Sheri Fenley
Homework for 17 August 2016

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World?” Seriously? Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation and Source Usage (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-18-genealogy-academic-world-seriously : accessed 14 August 2016).
For this assignment, I decided to cruise the internet to see who else had something to say on the subject of Academia vs. Genealogy Research.  I found  this topic is nothing new.  In addition to the many articles published by Elizabeth Shown Mills in many different publications, others have voiced their opinions including some other well known genealogists.  While their voices are being heard, there still is a long way to go before historians, archivists and other academia can co-exist with genealogists without the “us vs. them” mentality.
In October 1949, Milton Rubincam published an article in “The American Archivist” entitled “What the Genealogists Expect of an Archival Agency or Historical Society.”  You can find the article here:
In the article Mr. Rubincam says:
"Genealogy is a very serious business, not only for those professional genealogists who earn their livelihood by its means, but also for those avocational genealogists who seek to show the influence families have exerted on the course of local, national, or even international history."
Genealogy as an Academic Discipline by Jill Morelli. Ms. Morelli asks some very important questions that we need to seriously consider.
A very well written and interesting article by H. Daniel Wagner in the AVOTAYNU Journal (The International Review of Jewish Genealogy) entitled “Genealogy as an Academic Discipline” can be found here:
There is one paragraph in the lengthy article that stood out to me.  It suggests taxonomy (the branch of science concerned with classification) for genealogy:
“The various problems and methods of modern genealogy lend themselves to an incorporation in a classification of subfields within the following double framework: The first subfield of modern genealogy, termed macrogenealogy, or global genealogy, involves issues and tools relevant to genealogy as a whole, such as the development of improved mathematical models for the study of human migration or of backward or forward population growth, generic tools to facilitate merging and comparing databases, or genetic research techniques designed to trace the ancestors of homo sapiens. The second subfield, microgenealogy, may be subdivided into two areas of investigation: (1) confined microgenealogy, the genealogical investigation of a specific surname or family, the local history of a town, and so on, and (2) unconfined microgenealogy, a broader genealogical research field focused on a wider area, people or phenomenon (for example, 19th-century Irish migrations, Sephardic genealogy, stability of Chinese surnames through time) on the effects of specific large-scale historical events (the Holocaust), on genealogical myths (do European royal families descend from King David? Do specific families from Alsace descend from Charlemagne?). Such classification is far from being strict, however, since some issues have a mixed character: Generic research tools, such as mitochondrial DNA, that "belong" to the field of macrogenealogy may be used to investigate microgenealogical problems such as the ancestry of Kohanim. This categorization of genealogy into subfields could possibly serve as a rough guide in future teaching curricula and genealogy textbooks.”
Susan Tucker is an archivist at the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women at Tulane University.  She created a webpage entitled “Archivists and Genealogical Researchers: A Bibliography” and you can find it here:
Ms. Tucker defines the wepage for us:
“This bibliography is an ongoing project centered around ICA's Committee on Outreach and User Services. Special attention is paid to genealogical researchers, who -- worldwide -- make up a consistently large proportion of the users of most archives. Abstracts have been added for selected articles, those that deal specifically with family history or those that are insightful to the study of archival attitudes towards genealogy.”
I found two articles that discuss the issue at hand at jstor.org.  You must have a subscription to access the articles which I have.  For those that don't have access to the site, I included a short abstract of each one.
Duff Wendy M. and Catherine A. Johnson.  "Where is the List with All the Names? Information-Seeking Behavior of Genealogists." The American Archivist 66, 1(Spring/Summer 2003): 79-95.
ABSTRACT: Until the 1990s, archivists gave very little attention to studying the results of the user studies that have been conducted in the last decade. Genealogists are one of the most frequent users of archives. This paper involves in-depth interviews with ten genealogists. The findings stages of genealogical research, how genealogists search for their use, the knowledge required, and the barriers they face.
Redmann, Gail R.  "Archivists and Genealogists: The Trend Toward Peaceful Coexistence." Archival Issues 18, no.2 (1993): 121-132.
ABSTRACT: Throughout history, genealogy has often been maligned, misused, and misunderstood. However, over the past twenty years, practitioners of both genealogy and history have shifted their focus and have adopted similar methods of study. These changes have altered the traditionally negative view of archivists toward genealogists, with many in the profession not only accommodating genealogists but actually welcoming them to their institutions.
There was one article I was unable to read because I don't have access to the New England Historical Genealogical Register, but I will be going to the library to hunt it down:
Macy, Jr., Harry. "Recognizing Scholarly Genealogy and Its Importance to Genealogists and Historians." NEHGR 150 (January 1996)
The last item of interest I found is a website that encompasses both worlds:
Family Genealogy and History Internet Education Directory ---- Wiki
Professional, worldwide humanities and social sciences mega portal, connected directly to numerously related sub-sets having billions of primary and secondary database resources; information that provides family history and genealogy records. This website is educationally constructed to reflect the process used when actually doing practical genealogy and family history research. It is the generational historian's approach to the study of the history of families worldwide, establishing comprehensive evidence based family studies within and about the lines of descent from the researched ancestry.

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