Friday, September 24, 2010

Do Name Collectors Have a Place at the Table?

Are you a Name Collector or a Genealogist?  Can one be both?  A debate seems to be raging in the genea-blogosphere, and the recent post by Karen at Genealogy Frame of Mind has me wondering what place a “name collector” has at the genealogical table. A good definition of the differences between a Name Collector and a Genealogist is presented by Elyse at Elyse's Genealogy Blog.

When I first started out researching my family history, I was around 12-13 years of age.  My dad had done some research on the family, and I decided that I would pick up where he left off.  This was in the early 80s, back when I used a Commodore 64 (remember those?) to organize my genealogy.

At the time, I was entering names and dates into the computer without regard to proper citation of my sources. One of my ancestors had completed a genealogy on the BEALS family in my maternal line; my dad had obtained a genealogy of the LEMASTER line as well.  Names and dates went into the database without a thought of citing where I obtained the information, or more importantly – evaluating the quality of the data in those books.

So in those early days, I was definitely a Name Collector.

These days I would consider myself a Family Genealogist – that is, I do try to document and cite my sources as accurately as possible.  I try to correct gaps in my database as often as I can in order to make my research as complete as possible.  However, there is still quite a residue in my database from my Name Collector days.  Sometimes, even today, I can get carried away by a new discovery and fail to properly document the information, believing that I will “remember” and go back to add the source later.  It is a continuing struggle to not get ahead of myself.

I have an online version of my family tree database stored at WorldConnect.  My database contains a warning to those who would sample the information. There are errors and omissions, as well as undocumented facts presented.  I appreciate it when someone takes the time to correct my data with a post-em or sends me an email.  If I do not have the source of the documentation, I apologize and let them know right away.  Am I part of the problem?  Does my database create too much “white-noise” out there that causes disdain from true genealogists?

When I find information about a family online that I am researching that is un-sourced, I treat the information as a clue and seek to prove/disprove the information presented.  Many times these tidbits of undocumented information can lead to breakthroughs that will tear down a brick wall.  I treat this information much in the same way I treat the published genealogies out there that are nothing more than a collection of names, dates and facts without any sources listed.

As I transition from a Name Collector to a full-fledged Genealogist, I am not bothered by those who are Name Collectors.  Perhaps they are just starting out – or perhaps they haven’t matured beyond this stage.  Either way, I find that I have enough genealogical “sins” of my own to worry about chastising others for their failings. 

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