Monday, April 20, 2015

Passion over Perfection - NERGC2015 Final Thoughts

D. Joshua Taylor
My final day of NERGC2015 was spent on two presentations by Josh Taylor and one on DNA. I was excited to see Josh in person since I did a blog interview with him prior to the conference. 

The first presentation was focused on Engaging the Next Generation of Genealogists. I thought he really hit the nail on the head when he urged societies to look beyond their four walls & meetings and instead go to where the "kids" are. One of his points was that the next generation is not used to interacting in a traditional way, preferring to follow and collaborate on the go - the way they can using social media. I couldn't agree more! I have very little interest in monthly meetings. I prefer a more dynamic, real-time interaction and I'm hardly a "kid" at 51. He shared some of his ideas for how to make this happen by starting with each individual and their personal goals. What brings them to the table in the first place? What is it that they want to find out? Scandal? Celebrity connection? Finding a Mayflower or Revolutionary War ancestor? 

The other big takeaway for me was the idea that igniting the passion was much more important than striving for perfection among those dabbling in genealogy and family history. Don't squash their passion by overwhelming them with rules. He told how his grandmother purposely let him make mistakes and chase down leads that she had already discarded because it's the thrill of the hunt that gets the genealogical imagination going. As he pointed out, who hasn't had to trim their tree when erroneous information leads you to the wrong ancestor? It made me feel a lot less guilty about my family history project that I do with my students. They are far from perfect and sometimes I know they've got something all wrong, but I've been careful about balancing the research and documentation rules with nurturing the thrill of the hunt. 

Between presentations
Presentation number 2 by Josh focused on the compiled genealogies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. While their lack of sources can make some people discount their value, he pointed out how, with a little careful reading, one can make an educated guess and figure out where to look for the documentation. Again, I liked the theme of looking at them as clues and one piece of the genealogy puzzle that is your family tree. 

Worrying about getting it right was also a topic of conversation amongst the geneabloggers attending the Special Interest Group on Thursday night. In the end, I think we were able to allay some fears and encourage more writers to try it out. I found the bloggers in the genealogy community to be wonderfully kind and encouraging when I was starting my blog. The one big positive, beyond finding cousins, was that blogging does make you pay attention to your research and documentation. We all agreed that blogging has made us better genealogists. 
New England Geneablogger Table
I'm not ready to blog in detail about Blaine Bettinger's talk on Third Party Tools for Analyzing DNA. Let's just say that I found it very helpful but DNA still boggles my mind a bit. I would highly recommend checking out Blaine's blog, The Genetic Genealogist. He is very knowledgeable and is capable of bringing the science down to a level where you don't have to be a scientist to understand it. 

Here are my final thoughts: 

  • If you're interested in genealogy or finding out about your family, just dive in and do it. You will learn as you go so follow your passion!
  • Don't worry about making mistakes. Everyone makes them and worrying won't stop it from happening. Just do the best you can and keep learning. 
  • Network, network, network! I've connected with two new people just this weekend. They are working on the Lyford family and that is one of my lines that I haven't yet given enough attention. You never know who will have the answers you are seeking. 
  • Whether you're interested in blogging in general or New England, in particular, check out these awesome blogs. Please let Heather Rojo know if you have a blog to add to the New England Geneabloggers list. Help and inspiration are also available at


  1. Isn't Josh just delightful. We were lucky to have him in Australia recently. I'll be quoting his phrase "Passion over Perfection" . It is so apt for today's world.

    1. Hi Jill, Yes, he is wonderful! Both of his talks were very helpful to me personally as well as providing great advice in general. The speakers at NERGC this year were exceptional!