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Monday, 13 March 2017

What Qualifies as a Genealogy Specialty?

Some colleagues and I were discussing areas of specialty. It came about as a result of the article in the APGQ about having a genealogy niche.  My area of specialty is very much a niche. Not only is my base limited to Scottish genealogy but within that, I have niched again into Ancestral Tourism. My niche is about helping others locate their Scottish ancestors while researching using the records IN Scotland.

I give talks and webinars about the different records that are available both online and off. Mostly off. This limits me when being chosen for Conferences. The topics - while plentiful - are limited in scope and don't appeal to the larger audience. Sure I can add in the usual talks on Google, Social Media and even Getting Started but so can hundreds of other genealogists. So I stay limited. If I don't get picked, I don't get picked. Sometimes I'm dismayed but mostly I decide to attend the conference any way, but to attend as an exhibitor/vendor and allow those who are interested to find me.

I am a teacher. I understand the adult learner. I am relaxed and generally very dynamic - unless this is talk 4 or 5 on the same day. Then I know that my audience is just as worn as I am so I keep it short and sweet.  Who doesn't like being dismissed early? And I've yet to hear anyone feeling short changed.

So, what qualifies someone as being a specialist in a specific area of genealogy? Here are my thoughts

1.) The most critical, of course, is a knowledge of the record sets. An intimate knowledge.  What is available? Where it is available? Is it accessible? And what benefit it will be for a family history researcher?

2.) If you are a specialist in any given country, it really is important for you to know the history of the country. That allows you to know what records certain events generated and whether those records might still exist. It lets you know what genealogical value the records might contain.

3.) If you are a specialist who also does client research - that is, researching other people's family history - then you also need to know the basics of methodology, the genealogical proof standard, source citation, and effective report writing. I don't do client research. For a whole lot of reasons. Mostly to do with wanting to teach rather than research. So I would never offer to give talks or webinars on any of the requirements listed above. Ever. Yes, I know them. Yes, I use them in my own research. But I don't even begin to pretend to be as qualified in any aspect of client research as my colleagues who are. I don't want to take away from their expertise nor do I want to provide a less than stellar product to people who are paying good money for my work. I am honoured to be connected to some amazing genealogists who do client work and I am only too happy to pass people along to them. It shows the client that I care enough about them to want them to get expert input and it allows my colleagues to enjoy doing what they do. It is a win-win for all of us.

So, being in a niche, how do I keep from going stale? I am constantly looking at new presentations. But I keep them aligned with my niche. 
  • ·      Is the presentation about Scottish research?
  • ·      Does the presentation showcase Scottish records?
  • ·      Will the presentation assist people who are researching their Scottish ancestry? 

What do I stay away from? Pretty much everything else. 
  • ·       My husband's family were from England. I rocked that research but my knowledge generally is limited to the area where his ancestors lived. So I don't talk on English records. I defer to colleagues who do.  
  • ·       My husband's parents were first generation Canadian. I also rocked that research but don't use the records enough to present on Canadian records. I do share where people can find things that may assist them finding their Scottish ancestors who have emigrated to Canada, but those are the basic records. Beyond that, I pass them off to the teachings of my colleagues who specialize in the Canadian records.

I    If I'm constantly having to ask my colleagues about their area of expertise in order to put a presentation together, then I need to concede it is not my area and I need to pass the presentation off to them. Similarly with client work. If I don't know the history of the country, the records that are available, where those records are available or what genealogically relevant information they contain, I need to pass that off to someone who does know. 

I'm interested to hear from my colleagues who have a specialty or niche on what they think qualifies someone to claim the specialist status. Post your comments below.




4 comments:

  1. Celtic Connections Conference 2018 is happy to exploit your niche!

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  2. excellent post - I once knew a presenter who asked a few of us for examples on a topic so she could write her presentation over the next two days. She had turned in a proposal, an syllabus and was on her way to give the talk and she had very little actual knowledge. I knew someone who went to the talk and was amazed that the person was put forth as an expert! Agree we have to know our stuff and/or learn it before we offer to speak to it. There are so many topics out and we certainly can't know it all or tell others we do. I do think the genealogy community has a hard enough time policing the plagiarism issue - I wonder how specialties would be done. We rely on word of mouth but sometimes that is hard.

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  3. Great point Tessa. Policing is hard. But then the honour system allows people to claim to be someone they aren't. And that in turn affects all of us by making the profession look somewhat amateurish.

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