10 February 2014

Passive Research

"Hey, ya'll. Looking for my <relative>. He was born <date> and died <date>, I think, but not sure. Thanks!"

"Looking for relatives of <chain of surnames>! If you are related, or know someone who is, pm me!"

"<random person's full name and vital statistics>"

I'm sure we've all seen the half dozen or more daily posts like these. What are they hoping will happen? Some random post on a random page on a random website is going to be seen by someone who is related to them and then they'll message the OP to share years worth of research and photos? I'm sorry, not "share". They are looking for people to "give" information, because they don't have a lot to go on themselves. They want someone else to break the brick wall by already having the missing information and recognising the random name thrown out there. If we're lucky, they post this on a forum where people can see it years after it's creation when there's been enough work done to make the connection. But we're not that lucky, are we? It's usually posted like spammy flotsam on Facebook pages that aren't searchable or groups where the topics move fast. Sometimes you get to play the game of "Where Do You Think You Are?" as the request is nested as a comment to someone else's unrelated thread. Most of the time, there's not even enough in the request to try to help the poster find relatives. Other times, you point out how the post will be lost within a day or two. They respond that they had to take a shot in the dark. It's not a shot in the dark, it's lazy nongenealogy.

What is genealogy? It's the study of generations. It is the personal history of your family. Your effort determines your outcome. Want to just interview living family and work with hearsay? Fine. You won't get too far back, but you'll be well informed on recent additions to the branches. You want to only work with online databases? I get that. Some folks don't have the luxury of traveling to research. However, you hinder the depth of your research and install your own brick walls when local laws keep the documents you need offline. You want to work diligently on records and what you can prove via real documentation (on and offline) and aren't interested in connecting with all the distant cousins you have that are also researching? Okay, maybe you trust only what you can find or aren't very good talking to others. It's still solid research. On the other hand, a second set of eyes or someone to bounce ideas off of can help you work when faced with the absence of definitive records.

But if your plan includes just throwing out a handful of names and dates and "hoping" someone will stumble along and want to compare notes, GTFO. You aren't doing genealogy. You're expecting someone to do genealogy and give you the results of their efforts. More than that, you want it free. Free of money or effort spent on your part. I have a public tree. I put as much documentation I can on it. I share photos, albeit watermarked to protect my photo from being misused. I cite on my online tree other sources I use so people can find the same information or just ask me for a copy of the document they now know I have. I have no problem with people contacting me and asking for watermark free images of better quality on photos and documents I've already found. I have no problem sending my entire tree in a Gedcom to someone so they can quickly add it to their own work. I keep purchased documents offline to protect the rights of the archive I got them from, but I share them freely with anyone who asks me for them. I don't even care if I have more than the requestor does information wise. Heck, there are times when I'm the one at a loss and I am always grateful for those who can fill in a few blanks. These people are working on their tree and happened across information that led to them finding me, whether it was an old forum post, Ancestry's member connect, or my name on a Google search. What really gets my tights in a twist is the idea that out there is someone just waiting for me to come across a random request and give them what I have. They aren't looking for the information I have readily available on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Geni.com, MyHeritage.com, Genforum.com, or half a dozen files in Facebook groups. No. Not only do I have to find the information about our common ancestor, I have to find the person and contact them. I have to say, "Here! Here is my work! I'm so glad I finally found you, because all this effort has finally paid off as I can now hand you the whole of my knowledge that I was sure someone was wanting but not participating in looking for!" I can't get my own father interested in genealogy for more than 5 minutes straight, but I'm going to be so relieved when a complete stranger shoots off the shortest, laziest missive they can on a public internet page.


1 comment:

  1. I certainly support your well-worded perspective, but I must live in an alternate universe. I didn't know the Coke "America the Beautiful" Superbowl ad was getting vitriolic feedback (it's a wonderful ad and speaks to the immigrant ancestors of us all--though I wish my Polish ancestors had arrived with digitalized birth certificates ;P) and I've never seen a blanket post like the ones you referred to above! Lucky I guess.