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Archiver > APG > 2009-02 > 1235276922


From: Sheri Fenley <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Working in Archives - Blog series
Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2009 20:28:42 -0800
References: <c12.4c4e373f.36ca51c0@aol.com> <49999052.10407@debbiewayne.com><49A0CE7A.1090503@earthlink.net>
In-Reply-To: <49A0CE7A.1090503@earthlink.net>


Carolyn,
Thanks for the insight and an explanation in plain English. I don't know
about anyone else, but I can relate to your statement about not wanting to
hear about some one's Grandpa Jones. There is a time and place for
conversations like that. It is one thing to discuss Grandpa Jones as a
player in a case study and another if it is some one's Grandpa Jones that
they go on and on about.
It may sound snobby, but the clothes and the way we carry ourselves make a
significant statement as to what our intentions are.

Sheri Fenley
Stockton, California
On Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 8:03 PM, Carolyn Earle Billlingsley <
> wrote:

> I think the points made thus far have been right on the money in
> explaining why we as genealogists are often "disrespected" in archives
> and by historians--- from dressing and acting professionally (or not) to
> the perception of the "triviality" of our pursuit.
>
> However, as both a card-carrying historian AND a genealogist, let me
> offer this insight. Every HISTORY conference I've attended, where there
> were genealogists in the audience, (which is frequently), the historian
> would make his/her points about some historical viewpoint or finding,
> and then a genealogist would invariably stand up and hold forth on . . .
> BUT, my GRANDPA didn't do/act/say/feel the things you're describing.
>
> There is a disjunct in the goals of genealogists and historians, _even
> if_ each uses micro-history _or_ macro-history to reach those goals.
>
> Anecdotal evidence about one's particular ancestors do NOT constitute
> either an affirmation or a refutation of a historian's findings.
> Historians are looking at the big picture or a universal truth.
> Sometimes they use myriad pieces of micro-history to put together their
> big picture, but that is still a different goal than those of us who are
> wearing our genealogy hats, looking into the /_/particulars_ of OUR
> ancestors or a client's ancestors.
>
> Does that make sense? Historians are using lots of little pieces to put
> together what they hope is a universal or regional or bigger-picture
> finding. Genealogists are looking at the lives of their particular
> ancestors and using the big picture to put them in context. Although
> historians may use genealogical type research and micro-history, their
> goals are broader than that of a particular family or group of families.
>
> Sometimes these two areas can intersect and there is no doubt that
> historians can and should learn from genealogists, and vice versa. But
> to a historian, anecdotal evidence doesn't prove or disprove their
> thesis. More often than not, when a genealogist interacts with a
> historian or archivist trained in historical methods, they are, in small
> but significant ways, speaking a different language.
>
> I'll never forget when I entered grad school, with my undergraduate
> senior thesis in hand--the genealogy of the Keesee family. Dr. John
> Boles, my adviser, was impressed and found much merit in what I had done
> and was doing. But he continually stressed to me and pushed me to see
> that, as a _historian_, I had to make those findings relevant to an
> entire era, a region, to some meaningful overall thesis about history.
> He felt my dissertation and book did that, in the end, but it was a hard
> road for me to convert my thinking from total genealogy to being a
> "Historian," with that slightly differing purpose..
>
> One is not better or less valuable than the other--both history and
> genealogy have merit and both have rigorous tenets for those who aspire
> to doing their job well. But they have differing goals for the most part
> and both sides need to recognize that gulf so that we can meet in the
> middle and understand and support our sister discipline.
>
> If you want to be in sync with an archivist or a historian, ask
> questions such as, where can I find information about migration into
> Illinois, or what differentiated yeoman farmers from planters, or what
> kinds of laws affected a man who was part black in Arkansas in the
> 1920s, or what newspapers cover coastal Texas in the antebellum period?
> In listening to academics gripe, the complaint I hear most often is that
> the genealogists they meet starts talking about Grandpa and the
> specifics of Grandpa's life. In general, this is _not _of interest to a
> historian, unless it's tied to some bigger thesis from the discipline of
> "History." Whether it SHOULD matter or not is a moot point!
>
> Now it's a whole 'nother story if you start a conversation with a
> historian by saying something like: In my years of research into yeoman
> farmers in the South, I have found they often owned a few slaves. How
> does that compare with your research into the Southern yeomandry?
>
> And, as others have pointed out, if you go into the archives or library
> looking like a professional and acting like a professional, you will be
> treated as such. Leave the kids at home; lose the sloppy t-shirt that
> says "I <heart> cemeteries" and don't tell the archivist your ancestor's
> life history or ask if they have anything in their stacks on John
> Longfellow of Tennessee. As professionals in the field of genealogy, WE
> should know what materials we want and need, as well as what materials a
> particular archive might be expected to contain.
>
> Best regards, Carolyn (now stepping down from her soapbox)(and wishing
> my two professions would quit squabbling :-) .)
>
> Debbie Parker Wayne wrote:
> > wrote on 2/15/2009 11:21 PM:
> >
> >>
> >> The problem, I believe, is not our qualifications so much as the
> perceived
> >> triviality of our pursuits, compared to broad, world-shaking historic
> trends, or
> >> the large sums of money that motivate forensic searching.
> >>
> > That is a great point, Donn. Maybe as more historians get into
> > "micro-history" and research techniques used for genealogical research,
> > as Allison and Claire mention in the thread at
> > <http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/APG/2009-01/1231001955>;,
> > the perceptions will begin to change.
> >
> > I did see on the Legal History Blog this morning Emily Kadens used a
> > technique we use on this list all the time-- she posted a segment of a
> > document and asked for help interpreting the handwriting:
> > <http://legalhistoryblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-does-this-say.html>;
> >
> > Too bad someone solved it before we genealogists could jump in and
> > demonstrate our skills.
> >
> > Regards, Debbie
> >
> > Debbie Parker Wayne
> > Wayne Research -- http://debbiewayne.com/
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > .
> >
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