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My senior paper for my History degree in 1972 was on the topic “History – a science or an art”. I said it was both. My life’s experiences at 22 years of age had taught me that man’s knowledge is very limited and when we speak, or do, or write, we can only speak, or write or do to the extent that we know. And this knowledge colors – if you will, provides the lens – through which we see and know and experience. It colors how we gain and share knowledge as well. In professional genealogy, we must always keep this in mind as we look at the past where we have not been to meet the needs for truth for our client’s family tree.

A pivotal experience in medicine brought this home for me. Last year a renowned doctor (in the company of multiple respected specialists) told our family as we gathered around my husband’s Open Heart Surgery Thoracic ICU bed that people in Jim’s condition do not survive. And yet, in spite of having MRSA in his open heart wound, he did. Why did he live – when the best minds were saying “come in and say good bye”. I learned something very important from this heart-stopping experience with the “practice of medicine” that is applicable to genealogy as it intersects with historical study and the very scientific practice of molecular genealogy and DNA and “Historical Event Genealogy tm” . Professional Genealogy outcomes and results are not predictable or known in advance, finite, definitive, perfect and all inclusive.

We professionals in genealogy are but mere mortals who (should) give our best efforts and live by the highest standards of our industry as we search for accurate answers and solutions for our clients questions and problems. As our industry of professional genealogy grows, develops and embraces the 5 fold criteria of professionalism: education, training, experience, credentials, and membership, we will see greater acceptance of and standards in the practice of genealogy. Remember, at one time doctors believed in leeches. Historians believed in mythology. And DNA didn’t even exist. We are in the forefront of the development of our industry. We need to press forward, using true principles, and respect and validity of our profession will come. We have been doing this work full time for nearly 40 years. Professional Genealogy is not my grandma Wilda’s genealogy.

Sincerely yours,

Mary E. Petty, B.A.
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