26 January 2012

An Open Response To Dahling Polly Kimmitt

Yesterday, as I was catching up on 3 weeks worth of blogs, I came across one of my favorites - "PollyBlog" authored by Polly Kimmitt.

Below is a snippet of a recent post from her blog:

"There is a lot of negative buzz in the genealogical community lately about people overselling themselves, and I certainly don't want to come across that way because in reality I don't think anything I'm doing is all that spectacular. I myself am happy with it, but I'm not out to impress anyone. Then again, it seems kind of dumb that you can read my blog and have no idea what I'm doing. I always say that if you carry modesty too far it becomes an egotistical thing. A person who purposefully does not share anything about him/herself can seem closed-off, and for what purpose?"

At the end Polly asks this of her readers:

"Do you think this post is boastful, arrogant or publicity-based? Does it seem self-serving? I'm curious what people think about this one because it is different from my others. Let me know your thoughts!"

I started to leave a comment but found shortly that it was turning into almost a thesis and decided to address her concerns and put in my 5 cents worth of thoughts here.

Writing a blog and making it available to the whole world to read is very scary stuff when you first start out.  Some of my first thoughts were: How much about my personal life to I want to share with John Q. Public?  I am so very proud of my 3 sons and like any mother I love to brag about anything they do.  OK mostly it is all about me - I pat myself on the back daily for a job well done on those boys.  But, am I violating their privacy if I use their names?  They are all grown men now but the world is full of weirdos and we all want to keep our children safe.  Then came the most horrifying thought of all - what if no one evens reads my blog at all?  

So after about a year I made the decision to just be me - I decided not to write with a formal business tone.  My blog is a perfect way for me to meet and "talk" to people in the genealogical community.  Truth is, I am painfully shy, and a blog was a curtain to hide behind.  As I began interacting with others online more and more, my confidence grew. I started putting some of my research work in posts.  The comments and constructive criticism I received from others bloggers and genealogists - the peer review - the knowledge that people thought well enough of me and my work to take time to leave words of advice and encouragement turned the tide for me personally and professionally.  Gone are the days of living in a vacuum.  Yes a genealogist usually does work alone, but we now can reach out to one another in seconds for support and friendship.

I have learned that if there is something that you do well, why not let the world know about it?  I gave myself permission to toot my own horn when I accomplished a goal or if I have knowledge that can be of use to another then Hell yes I let people know.  How else are they going to know about it?  

I had a client last month who told me that when he decided he was going to hire a professional, he narrowed down the choices to a group of 4 or 5 genealogists of which I was one.  He went on to say that for each of us he had gone on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and our personal websites or blogs to learn more about each of us.  He knew that all of us were more than capable and experienced to take on his project but he wanted someone who he felt comfortable enough with to share his family and ancestors with.  

He said that there are a kazillion people out there that could pull records and find the facts and documents and write a cold and impersonal report.  He wanted a researcher to get to know his ancestors  and go into the project with the mindset that his ancestors were living, breathing people at one time in history and not just names on a piece of paper.

He said that I was the only one of the group of his choices that let people get to know who I am as a person.  

He said hiring a genealogist is not the same as hiring a plumber or a tax accountant, etc.  A genealogist would be privy information about what he holds most dearest - his family - both the living and the dead.  He wanted someone who he felt could conduct research knowing these things.

I said to him - "Well you have read my blog and so you must be aware that I can be at times snarky, irreverent and just a plain goofball and that didn't concern you that I might not be professional or businesslike enough?"  He told me that he had seen my work and had even spoke to a previous client (unbeknowst to me) and he was confident in my experience and abilities.  

Well that was a first for me and he is probably one in a million of clients that would make a choice for a professional with that criteria.  But it did make sense to me and was thrilled and honored that he thought I was the one who fit the bill.

On the other hand, there are probably many other prospective clients that did NOT choose or even consider me because of the very reasons he did.

Each one of us blog for different reasons.  They are so many out there that are wonderful blogs and the information that they have is invaluable.  They have been blogging for years and to this day to not even reveal their real name or location or (believe it or not) have any information about how to contact them.  But that is their choice.

It's your blog, and you have the power to do anything you want.  If my blog or posts ever bother some one I would hope they would tell me why and we can always agree to disagree but I will not change or delete because of that reason.  

There is nothing wrong with self-promotion.  If we were all rich and famous enough we would do the same thing but we would be paying a publicist to do it.

There is a huge difference between self promotion and getting your name out there to let people know what you can do for them - and and being a braggart, blow-hard and uppity know-it-all (for lack of a word that isn't offensive).  Anyone with common sense is able to tell the difference as far as I am concerned.

So Polly Kimmitt - I for one am so pleased to know more about you and what makes you happy in life. You are my kind of people!   I am sad though that you probably won't ever be joining me in the Unholy Abyss  playing video games and watching TV and abusing other time-wasters. But we can work on that. . .LOL.


  1. Wonderful post Sheri! Loved it.

  2. Who would ever know that you are/used to be painfully shy? I am in the same boat! I think being yourself is the most important part of blogging. You are so 3-dimensional and warm and real that people can't help but love you! I still remember the first time I ever read anything you wrote. It was on an email list and you were telling about your first experience at IGHR. Hysterical and informative at the same time. You're unforgettable, dahling!

  3. Great response, Sheri! But, you, shy? I do find that hard to believe!!

  4. What? You? Painfully shy?!?! Nah! You are so easy to talk to! And did I mention, fun?

    Thanks for sharing the link to Polly's blog post today. I haven't been following her blog, but now I am.

    Coincidentally, I woke up this morning feeling just that kind of imbalanced. As you know, I've just gone through one of those painful life experiences that we all must face. And yet, knowing what was to come, I pre-wrote all my blog posts so things could go on as usual.

    This morning, I got to thinking how unfair this is to anyone who is reading my posts. After all, those posts have a *writer*--a real, human being who goes through the same stuff everyone else does. How can I detach what I write from who I am? And so, I've been mulling over saying something about what I've just been through. It's just a need I have, I guess, to put the pieces of my life together in a holistic way.

    All this to say, I really appreciate you being you in the way you do. And now that I've been introduced to Polly's blog, I can see another example of someone being herself online.

    It's OK. No one is going to steal our identity in some way that robs us of ourselves. Perhaps we let fear, or a stereotyped vision of what a "business" person should be like, dictate the persona we project online. I want to get to know you, the writer.

    In your own case, of course, I've had that opportunity in real life. For many others I read, I haven't had that chance. Hopefully, though, I can glean those glimpses through what I can read.

  5. As an accountant I had to chuckle at one of your client's comments. Actually, working with an accountant is quite like working with a genealogist, precisely for the reason he gave. We are privy to quite a lot of sensitive family information, particularly where family-owned businesses are involved, not just people's finances but their dreams and plans for the future, their opinions of and frustrations with their adult children! Rapport and trust is pretty important - if you're doing it right.

  6. As someone who is in the deer-in-the-headlights-terrified stage of starting a blog, I appreciate this post. It gives me a lot to think about. Thanks, friend!

  7. Sheri, you perfectly represent the famous line in Hamlet: "To thine own self be true!" A good philosophy for all bloggers! :-) Brenda