Junk Genealogy Masquerades as the Truth – Mary E. Petty’s Answer to Question #1

Question #1: Without organized professionalism and its attendant standardization, how is junk genealogy to be unmasked? Or put another way, how do you separate true and accurate genealogy from junk genealogy in the non professionalized world of family history?

While there is no quick fix, there are four possible approaches to the problem.

1. The consumer can wait till his family tree has been climbed by others; and then, hope that Genealogy Research Services has professionalized so he can hire a real professional to validate or disprove all the genealogy work discovered in the past. Could be in the next life!
2. The consumer does his own genealogy after he devotes considerable time and effort to becoming a professional genealogist by adhering to the hallmarks of a real professional – college education; skill training, work experience; competency testing, verifiable credentials; compliance; membership in qualified members-only organization that requires these qualifying standards, best practices, and ethics. If the consumer is willing to become a real professional genealogist!
3. The consumer encourages the formal establishment of a profession in Genealogy Research Services to create qualified practitioners (education, training, experience, competency testing, continuing education, compliance) with members-only professional organization supporting and maintaining recognized methodology, best practices, ethics, and standards so trustworthy genealogy can be accurately discovered and documented, verified, reproduced, and certified. My Dream by 2020!
4. Practitioner initiative (actual workers who make a living doing genealogy research for hire for clients, organizes a real profession in Genealogy Research Services by 2020 to establish and verifiably maintain the qualified practitioner criteria, standards, methodology, technology, science, best practices, and ethics. My Dream by 2020!

Personally, I feel it is impossible to unmask junk genealogy in today’s non-professionalized genealogy research services marketplace. Just calling something Professional Genealogy does not make it so for either the practitioner or the products and services and outcomes. Any one can work in genealogy today, producing whatever they call genealogy, with no standardized qualifier as to the validity, quality, and status of the product or the producer. Any one can self-appoint themselves as a professional and charge money for their services, products and work, or do this for free, falsely claiming pro bono or professional stature of the advice, instruction, or facts. In such unstructured commercial activity, you can’t tell the real practitioner from the non-qualified or self-appointed worker, or whose work or efforts is true or junk genealogy. For the consumer’s, it’s a real buyer’s-beware environment.

Genealogy is so intertwined with hobbyist, amateur, and self-styled professional work, that consumers have no authoritative means of separating between the real work of authorized practitioners, and that produced by the self-designated professional or massed-produced or recopied by the hobbyist world. Without recognized professionals who have access to standardized education, training, competency testing with verifiable continuing education, compliance, standards, ethics, and best practice, there is no authoritative means to differentiate between the qualified and unqualified practitioner and their outcomes. Everyone and everything is suspect in today’s world of genealogy research services, resulting in unfettered junk genealogy. Anyone may self-designate as a genealogist, often erroneously self-applying the term professional genealogist to lead the consumer to believe that there is a profession in genealogy research services. Such self-styled workers then call their genealogy services or outcomes “professional”, be it actual research work or just talking, writing, blogging, speaking, lecturing, or teaching about genealogy. Junk Genealogy thrives in such a world of non standardization or un-professionalism. It will always be a problem till the work of Genealogy Research Services professionalizes and formally organizes as a profession. Just like true and accurate research in any real research and discovery profession like paleontology, archeology, and astronomy, professional designation in genealogy must be credible, competency-based, maintained and reproducible; verifiable and restricted by standardization to qualified practitioners only.

Genealogy is a lot like paleontology, archeology, and astronomy. They are all very technical, scientific and scholarly research-oriented fields of endeavor and interest that have very small professional occupations, affiliated business and industry work opportunities, and very large hobbyist or amateur participation. They all suffer from free junk made available to the consumer by the unqualified, as well as non professionals who compete with the real professional practitioners for the consumer dollar by doing research and writing, speaking, teaching, and producing materials and results that are marketed to the consumer as true and valid.

Paleontology, archeology, and astronomy have existing professions that use the well-established pattern of professionalism to control who is designated by their professional organizations as a real paleontologist, archeologist, and astronomer. So pros can trust other pros, for trustworthy, verifiable and reproducible results, practitioners have earned the profession-mandated college education and skill training as the entry-level hallmark designators for a professional or career worker in their field. This achievement of the required content-specific college degrees and on the job training at the graduate level separates the hobbyist from the qualified and allows the degreed person to be designated as a professional in their respective occupation.

This enables the professionals to know who is professionally qualified, and by right, use the professional designation as paleontologist, archeologist, and astronomer. There is no self-appointment as a professional. This does not prevent someone from working in these fields, but it does remove the possibility of confusing professional work from that done by the unqualified. In other words, professionals know who is producing the materials and can easily separate the credibility and competency of the work and the provider. While this does not stop the active hobby world from digging for dinosaurs, or historical artifacts, or searching for new planets and then holding conferences, publishing consumer magazines and blogging their findings, it sets trustworthy criteria for both the consumer and professionals to use to unmask the junk in their fields. Paleontology, archeology, and astronomy differ from genealogy because of such professionalization and the resultant professionalism of the practitioners.

This professionalization and ensuing professionalism are in the best interests of the consumer, the practitioner, the profession, the affiliated partners in technology, science, goods, and services, and the public and private domain family trees. My dream is the establishment of a real profession in genealogy research services by 2020 through the actions of career practitioners and the efforts of well-meaning consumers. Here we will find the true, reliable, and trustworthy means and tools to unmask junk genealogy and to climb the family tree professionally, and accurately identify individuals an link them to their real ancestors, descendants, and relatives, and their place in history.

Submitted by Mary E. Petty, BA (History), BA (Genealogy)
Ancestors are the People of History.● Do you know who yours are? ● Let the Professionals at HEIRLINES FAMILY HISTORY & GENEALOGY find your ancestry! ●1-800-570-4049 ● www.heirlines.com ● PO Box 893 ● Salt Lake City, UT 84110
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