If you have spent much time working on your family history and/or genealogy, then you know there is a popular saying as follows: "Genealogy without proof is mythology."
Why then do so many genealogy bloggers take such time and effort in promoting mythology and misinformation about genealogy?
I have become increasingly alarmed at the rate at which many of my colleagues in the field of genealogy writing seem to be comfortable with promoting, maintaining, and/or trumpeting false myths in genealogy.
Good genealogists and family historians go to great lengths to document and try and 'prove' our family trees and family relations. We spend significant amounts of time and often significant amounts of money to insure we are as correct as we possibly can be. We do this for ourselves, our clients, and for others. We take pride in adhering to the 'genealogy proof standard', along with conducting 'reasonably exhaustive searches', and more.
Why then do so very many genealogy bloggers promote and disseminate genealogy 'myths' as though they were accepted fact rather than challenging them when they are nothing more than myths? Why do these otherwise fastidious people toss their own industry rules and personal good conscience 'under the bus' simply to parrot falsehoods about genealogy? Do they really believe that they must resort to unfounded B.S. to support their agenda or the particular point of view they hold?
Let me give you a few specific examples:
First up: Currently it seems the myth that 'younger people don't care about genealogy' is a hot topic. Where does this myth originate and why do so many in the industry feel the need to pound on it like it is the drum of doom to genealogy and family history? First off, I have yet to see any statistic that shows, for fact that anyone younger than a certain age doesn't really care about genealogy. Anecdotally I have seen many younger folks than me involved in genealogy. I have not seen any surveys that support this outrageous statement, yet we see it over and over again in blogs, conferences, and all over the genealogy universe.
As finders of fact, these genealogy bloggers should be looking for the factual basis for such utterances before they blindly repeat them.
Unfortunately it seems that these purported 'experts' prefer to reiterate unproven falsehoods as long as it seems to be designed to elicit good old-fashioned handwringing over the coming demise of their beloved industry of genealogy.
Next up: Concurrently with the 'younger people don't care' myth is genealogy myth #2 being parroted by many of these same genealogists. This one is '80% of all genealogy research is redundant". Oh really? Then, once again, show me where this has been studied! Show me the factual basis of this fallacy. Reference the survey or study that was undertaken on this topic and show me that 80%, please. Really, PLEASE, because if it is true, then that is interesting. If not, then stop with the mythology!
Additionally these two examples above are reminiscent of the all too often 'quoted' mythology that 'gen.ealogy is the second most popular hobby in the world'. Finally someone piped up (if I remember correctly it was Dick Eastman) and asked for the source of this myth. The last time I checked Dick was still waiting .... So if we are lucky this one may have actually been relegated to the dustbin of mythology, but I keep seeing that it crops back up from time to time.
You can package the above hobby myth with the similar myth I have read being that 'the search term genealogy is the second most searched word on the Internet behind only pornography'. Well, I hate to disappoint, but it is not. I suppose since the word 'pornography' is used it makes for lots of increased coverage, but it is not even close and searches using 'genealogy' as a search term have actually been declining steadily for the past several years.
But let me get back to my original question.
Why do supposed experts in genealogy act so freely in promoting and spreading erroneous myths about their own industry? Especially when genealogy is a business that is built on, and known for, facts, verification, documentation, and ferreting out and accepting the truth?
Unfortunately I have no answer, but I'd sure love to hear your thoughts on why these myths persist and why they are so often and freely endorsed and repeated as fact.
Follow Scott Phillips on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@OnwardToOurPas