Recently I wrote an article entitled "The #1 Thing That Impacted My Research in 2010" where I discussed an epiphany I had about using footnotes as a guide to help with my research.
Once commenter had this to say in response:
Martin said... "I've been doing that for 20 years; talking about it for 20 years; writing about it for 20 years; and blogging about it for 3 years. Maybe people will listen to you, but I doubt it."
Martin's comment really got me thinking about genealogy, blogging, education and skills.
What is the answer?
The reality is that genealogical skills and educational training vary greatly among genealogists.
I hate to use a sports analogy but I'm going to anyway. In the game of golf there are hobbyists and professionals and many layers in between. The skill level and training of a hobbyist golfer, amateur golfer and professional golfer vary widely. Similarly, genealogists have the same variance in their training and skill level when it comes to researching their ancestors.
Some genealogists never get past the superficial momentary fad of quickly checking for their ancestors online. Others go a bit farther, seeking out ways to increase their success in the quest for their ancestors. Others become smitten with genealogy, and even if they don't choose to become professional, they explore ever opportunity to improve their skills. And for those with the strongest interest there are many institutions, seminars, conferences, journals etc that help them to achieve their goals.
[For a superb overview of educational opportunities within genealogy at all levels see the video of Elissa Scalise Powell presenting "Choosing the Best Continuing Education Opportunities" made freely available, along with other helpful videos on the APG website.]
Besides the desire to seek out further education, another aspect that impacts genealogical skill is pace. Even though we may all seek to better educate ourselves we can't all do it at the same rate. A single person or a retired person may have more resources and time on their hands than a middle-aged genealogist with a full time job or three kids to watch over. Contrast the outside pressures in our lives with the impetus that is pushing us to learn and that creates an environment where some learn quicker than others even if the desire is great.
In my own case, for example, I have many distractions, I mean responsibilities, in my life. That means that while I would like to focus on improving my genealogical education and skills to the fullest, I don't always get to do that. Jump starting my education by attending far away institutions is not really an option for me. So I make headway as best I can on my own, by reading journals, following blogs and collaborating with colleagues who have greater expertise.
So to answer your unspoken question, Martin - What's the point of wasting time blogging and trying to educate people? I think that can only be answered individually. I'm a populist at heart. For me that means blogging about ideas that will help people is a worthwhile effort even on the chance that nobody reads it or learns from it.
I admit that I am hesitant to share the shortcomings in my own genealogical education. I'm afraid to show that I don't know something which I should probably already know. But once I started blogging I thought it might help other people if I blog about what I'm learning along the way. If it helps bring other genealogists further along in their skill level then it was worth admitting I'm not perfect.
Martin, I hope you'll keep writing and blogging so that I can continue to learn and come closer to attaining the same level of ability that you have. At least you will know that one person is listening.