Blog entry written by: Richard Remling, former CNYGS board member
Are you a baby genealogist? I know I am. Have you ever seen someone puff out their chest and go on and on about "doing genealogy" for the past twenty years? Well they might be baby genealogists and not even know it. I'll explain after I tell you my story.
Technically I started "doing genealogy" in 1976 when I earned the genealogy merit badge. This was long before the internet that we all know and use today. Alex Haley's Roots hadn't aired yet and the 1900 census had only been out for four years (in contrast the 1950 census will be available in a couple of years time). To meet the requirements of the badge I had to do what all beginning genealogists do. You interview relatives, hunt down the family bibles, go to cemeteries, visit the library etc. And I loved it. Many of the boy scout merit badges are designed to introduce the scout to possible future careers and hobbies. And genealogy has become a lifelong hobby. But for a kid there's not much more that you can do. Back then my library had exactly half a shelf of books on genealogy. I remember there were Gilbert Doane's Searching for Your Ancestors and Val Greenwood's The Researchers Guide to American Genealogy, but there wasn't much else.
So I didn't do much after that point, until 1987 when I moved to Syracuse and discovered the treasures of the local LDS Family History Center and the Local History/Genealogy Department of the Onondaga County Public Library. At that time the family history center was located on Colvin Street and I started ordering film after film. Eventually in 1993 I made my first trip to the Family History Library in SLC. I also would spend hours and hours at the downtown library's local history/genealogy department which at that time was in the old Carnegie Building on Montgomery Street. The place was cramped but I loved it. Gerald Parsons, the newly retired librarian and a fellow of the American Society of Genealogists (for an astounding 48 years!) had spent three decades creating this collection.
In 1988 the library opened up in a much more expansive space in the Galleries of Syracuse. And I had the great fortune to spend many of those days on the microfilm reader next to Dick Barr. Dick was, outside of Gerald, the most prolific genealogist in Central New York. He was legendary for his stamina. Since we were still both working at the time, Saturday's were our prime day for doing research. He would literally stay at his microfilm reader all day long. I don't think he even took a lunch break. I would get there on a Saturday morning just before the library doors opened and sure enough he would be there waiting. We would race over to the elevators to get up to the fifth floor. Both of us had our favorite readers and neither of us wanted anyone to grab them ahead of us. There were some days however back in the heyday, that you were only limited to an hour at a time on the machine especially during 1992 when the 1920 census was made public.
So you could properly say I've been "doing genealogy" for 32 years now. I've traveled three times to Salt Lake and three times to Fort Wayne to research in their magnificent collections as well as once to the New England Historic Genealogical Society library in Boston. As far as national conferences and institutes go I've been to 2 IGHR's, 2 NGS's, 1 SLIG, 4 NERGC's and 3 NYSFHC's. At one of the IGHR's I took the Advanced Methodology course taught by Judy Russell. But I'm still a baby genealogist.
So to borrow from Jeff Foxworthy's "you might be a redneck"...
If you don't subscribe to one of the peer reviewed genealogical journals such as the National Genealogy Society Quarterly, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you do subscribe to one of these journals and you just breeze through it before filing it away on the bookshelf, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you do not know the repositories in your ancestor's town, county and state like the back of your hand, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you use Evidence Explained as a door stop, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you find yourself falling asleep reading Mastering Genealogical Proof, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you read the Legal Genealogist's blog posts about copyright issues and your eyes start to glaze over, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you can't recite the five steps of the Genealogical Proof Standard, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you've never used indirect evidence to solve genealogical problems, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you don't know the difference between direct and indirect evidence and primary and secondary sources, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you've never published your work in a peer reviewed journal, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you've never given back to your local society and volunteered, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you haven't added DNA to your genealogy toolbox, you might be a baby genealogist.
If you start to sweat under the collar when you are asked "what was your source for this...", you might be a baby genealogist.
You get the drift. It is no shame to be a baby genealogist even after many years of research. It takes a big commitment of time to get to a more advanced level. Not all of us have that time or energy. We look at these national speakers who travel all around the country speaking to societies, and in awe we ask ourselves, "where do they get their energy from?" Each of us has many other interests that take us away from our hobby. Life gets in the way. But even at the baby genealogist level a person can still do a lot of good. I think I have. But I realize I have a ways to go.