A Genealogue News Flash [What's That?]Paula Sweetser of Brookhaven, New York, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Genealogy on Monday in recognition of the years she has spent correcting people's spelling of "genealogy."
"I'm still in shock," Sweetser said in a telephone interview Monday evening. "I'm just ... lost for words."
Sweetser is seldom lost for words when she turns up a "geneology" or "geneaology" on the Internet. She's a regular on the Ancestry.com and GenForum message boards, and monitors dozens of mailing lists, waiting for someone to slip.
"We know to watch our spelling when Paula's around," said a RootsWeb list administrator who insisted that his identity not be revealed. "You mess up just once and she'll pounce."
Sweetser usually responds first with a kindly worded message that explains the etymology of "genealogy," and points out the accepted spelling of the word. Second offenses are dealt with more harshly.
"I'll admit that I do get perturbed," she confessed. "People who can't spell the word have no business in these forums. Frankly, they have no business breathing."
This take-no-prisoners approach is what earned her the prize—and the respect of her peers.
"It is nice to think that I might have peers," said Sweetser, sighing. "But I fear that I am alone in this crusade. Really, the only thing that keeps me going is the encouragement I receive from the people I correct. They're always encouraging me to 'pick on somebody else' or to 'get a life.'"