09 August 2010

Anatomy of an Internet Genealogist

It is genuine curiosity that leads me to the question: What is an "internet genealogist"? Used by some as a descriptive term ("I happen to do my genealogy research on the internet"), a badge of honor ("I've adopted technology!") or a term of disdain ("Internet genealogists vs. real(?) genealogists?"), it seems like the term is all over the place, and time and time again I am unsure what it really means, whether it describes a type, subset or defect in genealogy, and whether, in the end, it really matters at all.

From what I can tell, usage of this term breaks down into the following seven categories:

The Accidental Internet Genealogist- Has been researching in genealogy say five years or less. In this time, digitization of records has increased to the point where much of the basic tree building going on in beginning genealogical research can be accomplished online. This person has neither adopted nor despised traditional modes of research via libraries, government offices, repositories, etc., they simply haven't advanced their own research and/or research skills to the point where going offline for research has been very necessary.

The Adamant Internet Genealogist- Perhaps started as an Accidental Internet Genealogist, but has not progressed to the point where they have started using offline sources for the advancement of their research. Lack of digitized records online confuses and dismays them, and they are often found lambasting the "lack of information online" on message boards and list-servs.

The Tree-Grafting Internet Genealogist- When Accidental and Adamant Internet Genealogists go wrong, they go here. Stymied by a lack of primary sources online, and unwilling to explore (or unaware of) offline resources, they engage in unsafe tree-grafting practices, mashing up the ancestry of humanity into completely fictitious, if fanciful, forms. GEDCOM download is their primary mode of research, and they have been known to be completely unaware of who or what is in their own tree.

The Researching Internet Genealogist- Probably 90% of everyone engaging in genealogy falls into this category. They are on the internet often in the course of their research, either to find offline sources via indices and catalogs, or using online data sources like ancestry.com or familysearch. They acknowledge that the internet is a tool, a means to an end, but not the end-all-be-all. Their research is a hearty blend of digital and paper, face-to-face and email. They are intelligent, altruistic, unusually handsome, have glowing skin, always use their turn signal, are always regular, and never swear.

The Anti-Internet Genealogist- Takes the stance that the internet is the reason for the downfall of genealogy, and that it is a runaway train of amateurish misinformation bound to destroy us all. The Anti-Internet Genealogist believes that the novice and ill-skilled genealogists one finds online are typical of a growing trend of lazy research and shoddy intellectual reasoning. Strangely, they are often found espousing this opinion on the internet.

The Homebound Internet Genealogist- Mothers with young kids, people with mobility issues, people with pocketbook issues...pretty much anyone who has ever uttered the phrase "When I finally take that research trip". This group is well aware of the value of the FHL, the regional FHC, Allen County Library, the small dusty Recorder's office, the basement of the County Clerk... without the time or money to get there. Often seen building "dream itineraries" on their blogs and mapping out driving times between places they may never visit. Identifiable by the wistful look in their eyes and the callouses on their thumbs from excessive space-bar usage.

And lastly,

The Internet Genealogist- A generic creature without identifiable shape or form, often invoked with disdain by people with vague issues of discomfort regarding the encroachment of technology on their heart's passion. Often a stand-in for general dismay with the research practices of others, but sometimes just a blind swipe at the calamitous nature of online information and resources. Can be construed as an entity built of derision or intellectual elitism, but more often just a sign that change is in the air. See also, "boogey man".


Cynthia Shenette said...

I believe I fall in somewhere between the Researching Internet Genealogist and the Homebound Internet Genealogist. Is that possible, a hybrid of sorts? I have a small child but get out at least twice a year. I am intelligent--I've told my husband so on multiple occassions. The lady at Clinique counter said I have very nice skin. I always use my turn signal. Always. As for the rest, no comment.

Thanks for the post!

GrannyPam said...

I thought you were describing me under the "Researching Internet Genealogist" until you came to the part about no sw#*%&#, and I looked in the mirror....