As a lifelong genealogy researcher, I smile and shake my head at the intense emphasis being placed on photos and story collections being the implied salvation of genealogy.
Granted, young folks are well trained to float on ‘surface’ content in their social media experiences and maybe offering the concept that similar pseudo floatsam and jetsam entails the depths of genealogical research. I hope the threads of interest generated from this concept are long and intertwine with the spirit of doing real research to find and prove the existence and lives of their ancestors who lived before the invention of photographs and weren’t featured in the few histories and stories that were recorded outside of royal families.
It was difficult to near-impossible helping my own children find a lasting attraction to genealogical research and is proving to be even more difficult with our grandchildren. They live in the world of pervasive digital access where attention spans are short and flicks of fingers quickly move their attention from one glitzy graphic and story to the next on their phones and tablets.
Will they and their generation (and much of mine for that matter) ever recognize the need for independent research and thought beyond the surface gloss and glitter?
In some cases yes, they are surprising adept in using the very technology that threatens to make them dependent on the words and ramblings of others as substitutes for original thought. They often prove to their points in depth referencing dozens of digitally published articles supporting their position, yet when they do take time to read the sources that were stated as proofs, the slippery slope of babble proven by more babble raises its ugly head. Deep original source proofs are missing or conceptually ignored.
Hoping to entice younger people to engage in genealogy through photos and stories alone may find its own foundation sitting squarely on the same liquefied strata as witnessed in the surface floatsam and jetsam layer of social media itself.
There has to be some way to entice at least some of the genealogy attractees to put on a ‘Sherlock hat’ and delve into the extremely satisfying reality of actually proving a fact without leaving room for doubt.
Proving the validity of their assumptions and research to older generations is certainly attractive. Who among us didn’t enjoy reveling in being right and thus eliciting the respect if not the annoyance of our parents when we still lived in the nest?
We eventually grew to love finding truth for truths sake regardless of the status and presence of other stake holders. With that love came the satisfaction of a job well done and we also discovered that it was also fun! Who knew that meaningful hard work could be fun?
Will ignoring actual primary and secondary source research in favor of “Fluff and Stuff” result in at least a small section of the newly minted ‘genealogists’ who will engage in the hard but satisfying hard work required of real genealogists?
I sincerely hope so. Time will tell.
At some point the reservoir of proven research will have been copied and quoted to ad finitum. All of the photos and stories will have been attached to them. What will the research-challenged ‘genealogists’ do then?
Enjoy further reading on this subject in James Tanners article: “Are Genealogists being defined out of Family History?” in his Genealogy’s Star blog.