Well if the last post didn't get me into trouble, I'm sure this one will (if you haven’t read it, you probably should do so before reading this one). It’s sort of a continuation of the conversation, but I will discuss what I think the bigger issue really is, in my opinion. While most of the offensive and emotional material was stripped from my last post, the same cannot be said for this post, but I'm prepared for the "hate mail," so bring it on!
Here is part of what I said in my last post:
The gist of Sharon's article was the there is too much misinformation published by "drive-by genealogists," who "believe the television ads about how easy it is to click on a few links and find your entire family." In other words, the newbies don't know what they're doing and publish a bunch of junk.
And I agree that there is a bunch of crap out there, both on and offline. While Sharon and I disagree about when this occurs during the course of a beginner’s journey, I really believe there is a bigger issue in play than just “drive-by genealogists” or beginners. If you read the title of this post, then you probably know where I’m going with this—some people just aren’t cut out for genealogy research.
What I'm getting at here is that there are too many people out there that really have no clue what they're doing when it comes to genealogical research. Yep, I said it! But, I'll admit, I was one of them years ago. However, I had enough common sense to realize this and I sought out learning opportunities to understand genealogy research practices, standards, methodology; how to use certain records; where to find said records; etc. I am a researcher and analyst by trade and knew that I just needed a little help to get me going in this new land of unfamiliar territory.
Researchers by trade or not, genealogists typically are good at critical thinking and therefore can figure out how to research either by stumbling along or seeking out some help or a combination of both approached. They are problem-solvers, love the challenge of a puzzle, and are good at collecting and, more importantly, analyzing information. Most can recognize when there is a gap in their knowledge and they look for ways to bridge that gap.
Unfortunately, there are people that simply do not have the aptitude for research of any kind, not just genealogy. (Yes, I feel the noose tightening.) And I hate to sound even more negative, but I don’t think analytical skills can be learned—your brain either functions that way, or it doesn’t.
I'm a believer in the concept of left-brain versus right-brain. In theory, good researchers are those who are "left-brained." They are more methodical, logical, and analytical, as opposed to those considered "right-brained," which are typically the creative, artistic, and intuitive types. In other words, left-brainers and right-brainers think differently, learn differently, and generally see the world differently.
But, just because someone is predominantly right-brained, doesn’t mean they lack analytical skills altogether. It could however mean that those skills are basic and that advanced research and methodology will be a struggle for them.
Okay, so now that I have alienated the entire right-brained population, let me just state: this is not to say that right-brainers can't pursue genealogy. They just need to understand that they have a skillset that usually doesn’t include much in the way of analytical skills. They have a creative mind, so they need to use that creativity to figure out how to make genealogy work for them. Maybe they're good at finding information but not analyzing it or putting it together with other information to draw a conclusion. They need to find someone with the analytical gene to help them out, perhaps a family member, a friend, a volunteer at the local genealogical/historical society, a librarian, or a professional genealogist.
Now, don’t go thinking that I’m saying that right-brainers can’t be genealogists and have to find someone else to do the work for them. I’m also not saying that left-brainers are superior in the field. In defense of right-brainers, they are the ones who can see the bigger picture. Even though they may struggle with analyzing individual pieces of information and putting it together themselves, they are usually well-suited for finding holes in the conclusion. They may not be able to say what’s missing or how to fix it, but they just intuitively know something’s awry and the conclusion is not making total sense. And let’s face it, the creative types do have a huge advantage when it comes to genealogy—they're the one's that can help tell the family story in an engaging way, as opposed to the left-brainers and their “just the facts” approach.
This is why I think collaboration in genealogy is so important. It’s sometimes the
best only way to approach problem-solving on difficult research projects. And a small team made up of both types of thinkers can really work wonders. Everyone can pitch in and find things. The left-brainers analyze the information and draw conclusions. The right-brainers see something off with a conclusion. They all discuss and brainstorm and perhaps it’s back to searching for more records. The left-brainers re-correlate and reanalyze the information, redraw the conclusion and now everyone’s happy. The conclusion is usually a fact-based proof argument of some sort, that isn’t really how a story should be presented outside of the scholarly area, so the right-brainers take over and create a wonderful story that is ready for public consumption. At least this is how it would work in my fantasyland and that’s how my dream-team would function.
In other words, it takes both kinds to make the genealogy world go ‘round, at least in a perfect world, contributing in different ways. But, I’ll say it again, some people just aren’t cut out for genealogy research. I’m sorry, but if you are a right-brainer working in a bubble, with no analytical skills whatsoever, jumping from tree to tree without understanding what you're copying, never looking at actual records and documents (and questioning why you should) then genealogy is probably not the right fit for you. I'm sorry, but it's these people who are perpetuating the problem of recycling bad information. And it's likely that no amount of education in genealogy standards and methodology is going to help them. Yes, I know, jaw on floor. (Being an advocate for genealogy education, my head’s constantly banging against the wall, so your jaw being on the floor is a better scenario by comparison!)
And as I make such a bold statement, I'm reminded of some cousins I’ve found (through those really bad trees) that fall into this category of people who should not be doing genealogy research. While there's no helping them with the concept of genealogy research, there have been times when they’ve held a key piece of information that I’ve needed to further my research. I of course took the time to substantiate the information and build upon it, but without the clue I don’t know if i would have ever found it on my own...at least not as quickly.
So even though there’s a bunch of crap out there, there could be a diamond in the rough. And don’t forget about those cousins that led you to the diamond…they may be sitting on a diamond mine of even more information, they just don’t have the skills to know what to do with it. But you wouldn’t know it if they didn’t make themselves known, garbage and all, through those poorly-done public trees. Now pick your jaw up off the floor.