Sunday, 16 March 2014

Challenges for the Genealogical Profession

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL finished third in the rockstar genealogist poll as voted by US residents last September. Her blog at The Legal Genealogist is a must visit for US genealogists, and of interest to many others because of her interest in genetic genealogy. She is now a regular on the US speaker circuit, with a style that would do a lawyer wanting to convince a jury proud.

Her talk from last October “We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” is worth a listen,Toward the end she mentions three challenges facing the profession: charges of elitism; DNA evidence and; societal change.

She makes no apologies for elitism if, as she sees it, it merely reflects adhering to standards appropriate to a professional.

On DNA evidence she acknowledges it's something many professionals approach with trepidation. (Note: according to the BCG member database only seven of 248 current CGs listing specialities acknowledge having skills in DNA testing.) In 2014 it strikes me as distinctly odd that professionals would be recognized as such without that skill.

Societal change refers to the increasing incidence of nontraditional families, defined not by bloodlines and the dictionary definition of genealogy, but the dictionary definition of family. That's in line with BCG's definition of genealogy which seems to be pretty much the definition of family history.

Genealogy is the study of families in genetic and historical context. It is the study of communities, in which kinship networks weave the fabric of economic, political and social life. It is the study of family structures and the changing roles of men, women, and children in diverse cultures. It is biography, reconstructing each human life across place and time.
Genealogy is the story of who we are and how we came to be, as individuals and societies.


turner said...

I don't think it's odd at all. I have little interest in DNA genealogy for the same reason I flunked math! It's hard work to understand, let alone do anything with the knowledge. Cheers anyway.


William Flowers said...

Your characterization of certified genealogists as not having skills in DNA as "distinctly odd" is far too benign. It is astounding that not only do so many not have knowledge about, or skills with, DNA, but that some even seem to reject the need for such knowledge and skill.

Judy G. Russell said...

As always I appreciate your very kind words, John. But may I offer a caveat to your side note? Many -- perhaps most -- BCG associates don't list all of their knowledge or expertise in their entries. In some cases (my own, for example!), we don't list any particular expertise because we don't take clients. We all have thorough grounding in the essential skills of genealogical research or we would not have earned the coveted CG credential. But holding ourselves out as DNA experts, capable of assisting clients in that one specific area, may be something we are reticent to do. Or it may simply mean that there are other areas we focus on (German research for example, or Southern research). It doesn't mean we don't understand and, where appropriate, use DNA as one of many tools.

Anonymous said...

They are slow to incorporate DNA into their standards for a reason. The technology is so disruptive to their profession that it could be the death of it. Once the price and quality of DNA tests improve, its convenience will make it explode in popularity. Once it becomes popular then it could be like when digital photography took over from film photography. Nobody knew what had happened until it was over.