Thursday, July 16, 2009

How Big Is It? Quality Over Quantity

I was reading an interesting post by fellow genealogy blogger Martin Hollick over at The Slovak Yankee which got me to thinking - does size really matter?

Of course Martin was talking about family tree charts and how while in my own recent post I commented about finally locating all 16 of my great-great-grandparents, it really is the width not the length that is important when it comes to one's own family tree. Martin states "The real works is knowing all your ancestors in any given generation. Researching one name is easy. Researching 128+ names takes some work."

What Martin was touching upon pertains to "quality over quantity" and something that is easy for genealogists to overlook. How many times has it happened that you mention to someone you've just met that you are involved with genealogy and then . . . BOOM! . . . their first question is, "So how far can you go back?" I would much rather have a small thoroughly researched tree and not take shortcuts rather than have a tree that reaches back 20 generations but whose roots are weak and not well-documented. That tree could fall over at any time.

* * *

As I get older, I do seem to be looking more for quality over quantity and I think this is only natural as people age. When it comes to gifts, I would rather be given an "experience" such as a spa day or tickets to a historical tour than an actual item. The same is true for me with my genealogical experiences. Here's what I mean:

  • Right now I've been following developments over at GenealogyWise which is one week old today - well not officially since I believe their launch date was officially set as tomorrow, July 17, 2009. While the site has seen rapid growth, I am hoping that they stress quality not quantity. They've had some missteps and stumbles (especially with a recent contest which looked for numbers to increase not the quality of content) but that is to be expected from a one-week old.

  • One common concern about GenealogyWise is the idea of standards. There seems to be a proliferation of groups at the site but no easy way to find the ones that have quality content and there are no standards as to what does or does not constitute a group. Also many are wielding the tired old "professional genealogist vs. hobby genealogist" sword which cuts both ways if you know what I mean. Standards are great if they actually mean something. And if they aren't used to constantly remind others whether they are inside or outside the margins.

  • There is also a great discussion going on over at Creative Gene in a post entitled To Group or Not To Group, That is the question . . . which also touches upon the theme of standards and quality. Read the comments to see the entire conversation and you'll realize that many of us who blog about our genealogy and family history love the idea of community but we want it to have meaning. There are some great suggestions about how to move the geneablogging group forward whether it be throught GeneaBloggers or some other means. Thank you Jasia for your post - I think the feedback it has generated is very valuable.

Is it just me or have there been some great thought-provoking posts in the genealogy blogosphere this week? Perhaps we've all recharged our batteries since Jamboree and now we are getting back to the business of sharing our collective knowledge, seeking quality over quantity, and asking the questions that need to be asked.

@ Copyright 2009, Thomas MacEntee


J. Moore said...

First, congratulations on the milestone. Always nice to round out a generation.

The difficulty of filling any given generation varies so tremendously between people of different backgrounds that I tend to pay little attention to it as a metric. There are consistently HUGE differences in the difficulty of proving lines for New Eng vs Cav Virg vs Scots-Irish vs Pa Dutch vs Quaker vs Nat Amer vs Afr Amer vs 20th cent East/SouEast Euro Imm vs 19th cent Eng/Irish Imm vs (etc, etc, etc). Even within region, stock, and class, there are large differences stemming from breadth/depth of extent records for various on counties of residence/death, etc.

I do agree that its better to be thorough than to simply ride your most prominent line back to an R&D 600 immigrant and call it good, but the results gotten from thorough investigation are going to vary quite a bit.

Your comments regarding both GW and the use and misuse of standards are right on I think.

I also found the discussion at Creative Gene interesting.

J. Moore said...

Argh. That should read RD 600, not "R&D 600." That'll teach me to comment before my coffee.

Well, no, it probably won't.

But it should.

FamilyTwigs (Sheri Bush) said...

Good post, Thomas. Something that has been bothering me after an incident with my file in the past couple of months. It's a really important question everyone must find the answer to at some point in their research. Very good read.

Martin said...

How does one have a blog to blog discussion???