Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guilty as charged

One of my favourite bloggers is James Tanner of Genealogy's Star. James, a prolific blogger with a legal background, writes thoughtful and challenging posts.

Yesterday James posted a list "My top ten worst genealogy practices targeted in 2012" in which he outlined  common crimes committed by the genealogists with whom he comes in contact. James intends to write further on these misdemeanours in 2012. This post must have hit a raw nerve with some genealogists as I read a few tweets yesterday that obliquely referred to the post. I made a flippant comment in a tweet "Guilty as charged - but only on one". 

It appears that another genealogist was also offended by the tone of James' post as today James responded with, "Mean Spirited"  a lengthy defence of his previous post. James made it difficult for the reader of this second post to reread and view the first post comment he cited as he did not provide links back to them.  I don't have a problem with what James' wrote - he is entitled to publish his opinion as are the people who have commented on his post.

I agreed with 9 out of  10 of the crimes cited by James, however I am guilty of his number 3 crime: "People who copy information directly from an online compiled family tree without sources."

I wrote this lengthy comment on his original post:

"James, I am guilty of your number three crime - People who copy information directly from an online compiled family tree without sources.

I take unsourced information, add it to my tree and publish it. 

I expect that those who visit my website and find unsourced information (and I use that term loosely) will do as I do and seek out both print and online resources to verify the facts (?) I have published. 

My family site is dynamic, a work in progress, not the end point of a piece of academic research. 

I am not guilty of your crime number 4 - People who think (or claim) that their genealogy is done. My genealogy is not done - my website is my workhorse not a show pony. I choose to let people view my work in progress.

By publishing my far from perfect work I have made contact with a number of cousins who have been able to verify some of the unsourced facts I have published. On occasion people have contacted me to correct what I had published. 

If I had waited until everything in my tree was cited correctly according to genealogical proof standards my tree would be very spindly and I would have missed out on reaping the benefits that the digital age offers genealogists who use online tools to make connections.

My message to those who borrow from my tree is "Caveat emptor"."


James Tanner said...

Sorry about leaving out backlinks. I guess I shouldn't write when I am being an advocate.

Becky Jamison said...

Jill, I agree with every word you wrote. I work on my genealogy daily, it's online, but is a work in progress. I tell people at the outset that it's a work in progress---it's not prepared for publishing and it'll never be finished in my lifetime. But I'm not leaving names out of the database until they are fully documented. If I did, it'd be a twig, not a tree. And I hear from many with whom I collaborate since it's available online. At times, both my husband and I have been personally offended by James Tanner's comments because he doesn't hesitate to put down everyone who doesn't measure up to his high personal standards. But his standards are HIS, not mine. I've learned a lot from him too and respect his expertise, just not his attitude at times. Thank you for a very well-written post!

Jill Ball said...

Thanks, Becky.

I am pleased that others share my views.

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