Monday, 15 August 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 18

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously?    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World?” Seriously? Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 14 August 2016).

This QuickLesson was published 9th January 2014 and the discussion of how Genealogy and Family History has been perceived by the academic world and whether it is, has or will change is not static. 

The interface between professional, academic and hobbyist in the field of genealogy can be fractious due to competing or conflicting demands. 
Conflicts due to differing perceptions do nothing but harm. 
The struggle to prove that genealogical skills need to be taught as an academic discipline when there are financial constraints and competing demands. 
Ensuring that there are standards in place and that they are observed by all involved.

Bloggers have posted about this. Thomas MacEnteeTony Proctor and more recently Amy Johnson Crow.

Whilst those who might class themselves as genealogists or family historians are possibly starting to form a more cohesive group with more online courses both paid and free (the online course run by Future Learn, created by the University of Strathclyde, last year had thousands of participants worldwide and is currently running again). 

The acceptance of genealogy as an academic discipline may not be so easy to achieve.

The skills needed to create accurate family histories are multifaceted they would ensure the graduate would have transferable skills for many occupations. 

Where many hobbyist family historians can fall down is that, whilst they may know where they obtained a piece of information, they do not always accurately record this. Sound conclusions can only be made when we take care to look at all of the information and review it with an open but critical "eye". The proliferation of inaccurate poorly documented "genealogical trees" on the internet does much to tarnish academic interests. It is in the interests of everyone that these inaccuracies are highlighted and education at all levels is paramount.

Many societies have a tradition of oral histories and until very recently "the masses" would have relied upon this. Only the elite in society could have access to, or afford, those who could write or paint. Official records only exist where law or tradition required them.
The advent of photography and other means of recording have added alternative means of passing on the information but as with any other media are prone to errors. 
Genealogists need to have the skills to know how to handle conflicts which is a skill that comes with knowledge and experience. Academia can assure that these skills are passed on by providing the education to the next generation.

This study group and others that have been hosted by DearMYRTLE, even the less formal discussions, are an ideal learning environment for all. (be they beginner or professional/ academic) 
They provide a platform for discussion and alternative ways of getting the information across to anyone and everyone.

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