The life of a professional genealogist can be pretty lonely. Many professional genealogists are independent and self-employed, which means that they do not have direct colleagues. Nevertheless, we all need support, we all need a sparring partner, we all need a shoulder to cry on. In our daily lives, we might have a spouse or partner that fulfils this role. But how many of us have a spouse or partner that is into genealogy as much as we are? Is he or she into genealogy at all? Not only do we need a fellow genealogist to lean on when it gets difficult. We also need someone to share our successes with. Doing a happy genealogy dance is much more fun with two, or more. Besides all of this, we also learn from the other. Not one genealogist knows it all, not one genealogist is able to do every trick. The best thing to do, is to create a (wide) cirkel with fellow genealogists… our #geniefriends.
Where can you find these genealogy friends? There are several places where you can look:
- Social media. Are you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other app or platform? As a professional genealogist you probably are. When you are not a professional, you might still be on one or more of these social media because these platforms are very valuable for everybody with an interest in family history. There are literally ten thousands of Facebook groups dedicated to (any form of) genealogy. When you become a member of such a group, you will find other group members with the same interest. How ‘special’ that interest may be. And if you cannot find a group dedicated to your very own niche, you can always start one and see if others join.
- Events. I already spoke about the events that I have attended over the last five years as a professional genealogist. In my article about genealogy events, I gave a few reasons why attending events is so important. Of these reasons is that you meet genealogists from all over the world. Meeting them is not only a fun way of talking about our passion. It also gives you the opportunity to learn from them, to discuss ‘hot topics’ and to share experiences.
- Genealogical and historical societies. In my country there are historical societies in every town. They all offer – more or less – the same benefits of a membership: lectures and meetings, outings and special events. Some of them publish a quarterly magazine or a weekly or monthly newsletter. Others have a team of writers that publish articles in a yearbook. Genealogy and (local, social) history are intertwined. One cannot without the other. For that reason many historical societies have members who are into genealogy, some even have a special interest group for genealogy. Genealogical societies are one big interest group. We have less of these in the Netherlands, maybe ten at the most.
- Associations for professionals. Every profession – and genealogy IS a profession – has its own professional assocation. Or it should have one, at least. As we do not have many genealogy professionals in the Netherlands, there is no such organization in our country. When I started with my business, five years ago, one of the first things I did was becoming a member of APG, the international Association of Professional Genealogists. These associations advocate, promote and protect the profession. They organize events and conferences for eduactional purposes, and they publish magazines and newsletters. Hence, you have again a great opportunity to meat like-minded people. When it is an international organization, you get the chance to meet people from other countries too. Maybe even from areas where you still need to do some research.
One other aspect of (virtual) groups is that they are always in need of volunteers. Be it as a moderator of a Facebook group, or as a board member of a national or international society. In all the 30+ years that I have been involved in genealogy, I have always had (voluntary) positions as an editor of a magazine or yearbook or as a board member. I wanted to help them run the society, offer their services to the members and achieve their goals. It is a great way of giving back to the community. Right now I am serving as a member of the board of directors for the Association of Professional Genealogists, as a member of the board of directors for the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors and as president of the Dutch Academy for Genealogy. The latter position needs to develop, the academy has just been founded this month and we are working on a website and curriculum.
All these (virtual) opportunities to meet fellow genealogists, also provide you with the chance to collaborate. Believe me, this word is key! Fortunately, genealogists have discovered that collaborating with other genealogists is not a threath, but a solution. Why would you re-do all the hard work that someone else has done before you? Of course, you need to find out if the results from someone else’s research are reliable. Never trust a source, until you have checked it’s credibility. A family tree from a genealogist is a source, therefore you need to find out how reliable the data in that tree is. With online trees, the cousin bait is out there. Waiting for you or some other family history lover to be seen. Not only genealogists should collaborate within their own profession, but also look outside their circle to see what other (scholarly) disciplines are helpful for their research or work. I very much appreciate the new movement #historianscollaborate that started last year. Let us not work solitarily, but… “Let’s come together. Right now!”
Penny Walters is a fellow genealogist from the UK, who not only focuses on the research side of genealogy but also on the more psychological side of this great profession. She is giving talks about this topic and wrote a book about this topic, called Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy.
The prize of today’s contest is a signed copy of this book. All you need to do is answer this question: name at least one international organization for which I (John Boeren) currently am a volunteer. Send me the answer in an email or through a private message on social media.