Sunday, March 04, 2007

Genealogy to the Extreme

An AP story making the rounds today calls the use of the Internet and DNA testing "extreme genealogy."

Just as modern equipment has made it possible for any reasonably motivated person to climb Mount Everest or dive to the Andrea Doria, new technologies have made it possible to achieve incredible genealogical feats with relatively modest effort.

Now, it takes nothing more than casual curiosity and a few hours of research to discover that New York-based civil rights activist Al Sharpton is descended from slaves who were owned by ancestors of the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, a staunch opponent of desegregation. [Link]
I think the writer has shortchanged some truly extreme genealogists here. It's far easier to retrace the steps of a pioneering researcher than to make the discovery oneself. Knowing where to look and recognizing what one has found are skills that require more than a modest effort to develop, though the clues may seem obvious in retrospect. Genealogy becomes "extreme" when we're blazing new trails—not when we're following bread crumbs left by others.



I agree with you wholeheartedly that there is no such thing as extreme genealogy. Sure the fact that more genealogical resources are going "online" every day, makes it easier for the researcher, with fewer physical treks to the library or document source. But in the words of Lewis Carroll... “If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”



This is probably more useful than the other advice Carroll gave us: "Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch."

Bill Blunt

Extreme Genealogy - I think this means inputting family history data into your laptop while abseling down a crevasse. Or maybe it's just looking on a census for cousins of cousins of in-laws, as some of those fine people on GenesReunited seem to do, until they've got more people in their tree than the Manhatten Telephone Directory.

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