Waitin’ on the World to Change

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read recently-published literature by three different professional genealogists who used the terms “primary source” and “secondary source.” One of the genealogists is a well-known, fairly high profile individual with a great deal of experience on the topic of that particular literature; in other words, someone who should know better than to use such imprecise terminology. Yet there it was, in black and white, for all the world (and a lot of less experienced researchers) to see.

I could throw my hands up in despair, say Will they ever learn?, and fret over how useless it is to expect people to lift themselves up from the mire of ignorance. Or I could do something positive to advance good research habits, including educating myself and sharing that experience with others.

I would like to issue a challenge to every researcher to be an agent of change this week. Pick one way to help someone else (or yourself!) learn a new skill, tackle a tough research problem, or track down a long lost relative. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as you choose to do something. We can sit around waiting on the world to change, or we can act in a way that will help that change occur.

To help get things started, I will go first. My action this week will be to bring my nephew (who is in 10th grade) information about The Concord Review, and to make a commitment to him, my son, and my niece to help them, when the time comes and in whatever way I ethically can, to research an essay for submission to that publication.

What change will you effect this week?

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3 Responses to “Waitin’ on the World to Change”

  1. Glad I’m not the only one who freaks out when I see those terms being misused and defined incorrectly. I started a blog post about this very issue over a year ago after hearing a lecture where the offense was made repeatedly. It was written in a very nasty tone because I was so frustrated at the amount of times I’d witnessed this especially by people who as you said “should know better.” Since then I’ve let the post sit in my drafts folder with the intent to pull it out and rewrite it in a tone that’s not so harsh. Funny enough, I came across another instance of misuse yesterday and was really considering tackling the post. Now after reading your post, I may just have to find the courage to do the rewrite and finally make my peace with the issue.

    • I hope you do rewrite that post, both to remind experienced genealogists that we should be more precise and to introduce new-comers to the terminology. One way I hope to help remedy this problem and spread the good word is through a lecture on foundational research skills, beginning with a discussion of “good” terminology and why we use it. I may not win many converts, but at least I’m trying, and I think in this case that that’s all we can do.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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