Saturday, May 4, 2013

Eating Their Young

I received a disturbing email this week from “Maggie” (named changed for privacy).  Maggie said that she took my advice and joined the local genealogical society.  Maggie is a brand new researcher and was very excited about meeting other researchers in the area.  She went to the first meeting and was taken aback by the way she was treated.  She asked some questions during the meeting that some of the other members thought were “stupid.”  The more experienced researchers made Maggie feel like she was incapable of doing family research.  She left the meeting totally dejected. 

Y’all know I am a nurse and nurse’s have the very bad reputation of “eating their young.”  Basically this means that the older, experienced nurses pretty much go out of their way to make the lives of the new graduates miserable.  We were warned about it in school and unfortunately, it was pretty much true. I have seen new graduates quit nursing in their first year because of how they were treated by their fellow nurses.   It saddens me greatly that genealogists would act this way.  Genealogy is one of those hobbies/professions where networking and cooperation are very important. 

Maggie did have one good thing to say.  She said that a member of the group came up to her after the meeting and apologized for the way she had been treated by the others.  This person offered to  answer all of Maggie’s questions and help her with her research.  If it hadn’t been for this one person Maggie might have just called it quits.

I will say that I have been guilty of moaning and groaning about some of the stuff that is posted on and the like but I will also say that when I actually contact the person that posted the information I always try to be very kind and constructive.  I offer to send them whatever documentation that I might have along with citations.  I also try to give them some words of encouragement and helpful tips.  It is very easy in genealogy to develop a “holier than thou” attitude and you just need to keep yourself in check. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Wow! That's pretty scary. Hopefully the one person that came forward was able to make up for the others.Good reminder, I hope all take note! Thanks for posting.

  2. I am happy to hear that at least one person showed some kindness for Maggie. I feel the same way about my local society. I still pay my dues and attend meetings. No one at my society knows that I blog because I haven't developed any type of trust with the group. They don't seem to welcome new people. There are some nasty genealogists out there. I just hope the kind ones out weigh them.

  3. Great post! This is something that I work against every chance that I get. We are all learning and need to be supportive of one another and build each other up.

  4. I've received some nasty comments on when it is a simply a matter of a typo/autofill error I didn't catch or I accidentally added some bad information from another source. I welcome it when someone kindly points out an error and offers to share some documentation but others are downright rude. It's unfortunate. The people I've found to be most welcoming and kind are the blogging community! They are wonderful, supportive, and helpful researchers who generously share their knowledge and expertise.

  5. I am SO glad this topic came up. I have been part of many service groups and organizations and sadly these meetings seem to attract people who are unhappy and feed off making other people miserable. It is a power trip to them. Maggie, you do NOT need these negative people. Believe me, these groups die off because of in-fighting, and not much gets accomplished. My advice to you is if you really want to join a group to share ideas and learn a bit about genealogy...start your own. Stick to a casual format, like meeting for coffee at a restaurant or coffee place. You can use online free services like MEETUP which allows you to post about your group, the area and what your group will be doing. Stay away from electing officers, etc and keep it casual. Take it to a coffee house and make it individual checks so you won't get stuck with the bill. A good size group is only a couple of people, like 5-10, and have them bring laptops or tablets and you can surf great places online.( Even McDonalds has free WIFI.) The idea that only experienced people can tell their family history is ridiculous...its YOUR family history, and who better to tell it? Yes, there are people out there we can learn from, but make their knowledge yours. Research methodology is important and weeding out the wrong ancestors critical. But you can learn these steps and get help from others in the process. NEVER let anyone make you feel less than you are. There are a lot of us out there who would love to have a group like that nearby. My family gets a little tired, I think, hearing me gush about my genealogy but they're good sports and they love me. I think the big reason most people abandon genealogy is that they lose interest because of lack of support, lose the time to sit and do it and think they are not good enough. I think that's why I am such a big fan of this learn so much, the people are supportive and Michele doesn't treat ANY question as if it was not worth answering. Hang in there, Maggie, remember your family is counting on you to tell your story. :)

  6. Relatively smallish human groups, like local gen societies, can get incredibly "inbred" and almost hostile, and it's seems often to be an in-group/out-group thing. This usually comes from the "top"/"old core". Don't mean to be cruel, but they will die off....
    Kudos to the member there who sticks in, but also welcomes and helps the newcomer!! Let them be the future core, and bring others in!
    And many other local gen societies are wide-open and welcoming, and helpful and supportive, and remember that they were new at this once, too. Usually, great resources.

  7. I had a similar situation at a local gen soc special interest group meeting on land records. I was real new to genealogy and trying to learn all I could. I had sent away to Upstate NY for a sale recording (1817) and was pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to do that much:) A woman at the meeting told me I had thrown my money away and should instead have gone there... hrumph! $25 for the copy vs $1000 for the trip. Amazingly, no one said a work in my defense. Meanwhile a couple of years later, I've found the "good groups" that welcome newbies and support them. Here's to all the Newbies: you are the future!! Jump in the pool, the water at this end is really fine:)
    Diane Weintraub, San Diego
    Nuts From The Family Tree

  8. Michele,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  9. Thanks so much, Jana! I appreciate you mentioning us (again!) on your blog :) :) :)


  10. Sadly, this isn't an isolated event. I had the same experience at my local meeting. Not a soul spoke to me and it was very awkward. I won't be going back and the group lost an opportunity to grow a new generation of member! But I won't give up...I'll take my membership somewhere else until I find a group that fits just right!