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What Affect Does the Global Family Reunion Have on Genealogy?

Is the Global Family Reunion Harmful to Genealogy? Find more #genealogy blogs at FamilyTree.comBy now, you have probably heard about the Global Family Reunion. It is the one put together by author A.J. Jacobs and it will take place in June of 2015. Genealogist Megan Smolenyak has questioned whether this huge event could, potentially, be harmful to the future of genealogy. She brings up some interesting points for genealogists to consider.

Genealogy is the study of one’s family. One of the driving forces that compels genealogists to keep doing research is the goal of learning more about their ancestors. There’s always more parts of one’s family tree to research, more family stories to dig up, and more old photos to identify.

It is true that some people get involved with genealogy in the hopes of discovering that they are related to a famous person. That initial spark could be enough to fan the fires of genealogy research for someone. Wouldn’t it be exciting to learn that you are related to your favorite celebrity?

Part of what attracts people to the Global Family Reunion is that potential. The main concept is that we are all cousins – all related to each other in some way. There are plenty of famous people who will be speaking at the Global Family Reunion (either in person or via video). All of them are your cousins! How exciting!

Megan Smolenyak, a well known genealogist, wrote an article for Huffington Post titled “World’s Largest Family Reunion: Genealogy or Preen-ealogy?” In it, she shares some of her concerns about how the Global Family Reunion has expanded the boundaries of genealogy. To get the full effect of what she wrote, it is recommended that you take a moment to read it in its entirety.

On the one hand, as Megan Smolenyak acknowledges, the Global Family Reunion is bringing a lot of attention to genealogy and the importance of knowing one’s family history. That’s a good thing because it helps people who are tentatively considering getting started on their own genealogy research to take the next step and give it a go. The “everyone is related” concept could make genealogy into a more welcoming field of study than it may have been in the past.

On the other hand, she also expresses concerns about the Global Family Reunion. One concern seems to be about the emphasis of connecting one person to another through both “blood relatives” and the relatives that were a blood relative’s husband or wife. The implication is that a person is cousins with all of the people who are related to a relative’s ex spouse. Something about that feels a bit tenuous.

There is another way to look at this situation. Perhaps the concept of what genealogy is, and what it is not, is undergoing a change. Discussions about correct or incorrect ways of doing genealogy research came up when it became easy to do one’s research online (instead of having to trek out to courthouses in search of vital records). Could genealogy itself be in the throes of a metamorphosis once again?

Image by George Barner on Flickr.

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