Thursday, April 6, 2017
Is your family tree bound by dogmatism?
Dogmatism is defined as the tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others. For the last hundred years or so, genealogists have lived isolated and cloistered lives. Unless they purposely shared their paper-based family tree, no one could ever question their conclusions. They could adhere to every possible family tradition without the bother of referring even to one substantiating document or record. They could claim that they had traced their ancestry back to Adam and everyone would be dutifully impressed. The genealogical life was simple and good.
Then things began to change. A few rogue genealogists had the audacity to suggest that genealogy ought to be source-centric. They actually suggested that entries in a family tree should be supported by validly evaluated documents and records. Nevermind, the dogmatic genealogist could easily ignore their platitudes. Then came the revolution. Family trees could be put online for everyone to see! In fact, FamilySearch.org and other online websites had the temerity to make unified, source-centric family trees.
Of course, there was always an option to stay paper-based, but now showing the heretofore private family tree to anyone risked the possibility that they had already seen their own ancestral lines on a public family tree and knew that the revered family traditions and unwarranted temporal extensions were fantasy and further, they were not afraid to say so in a very public way.
What could the tradition-bound genealogical dogmatists do to fight back? Hmm. They could dump all of their unsupported family traditions into the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and play "King of the Hill." If anyone had the courage to claim that their dogmatism was unsupported, they could claim otherwise and refer to their "years of research" and the fact that they had "hired a professional genealogist" to support their conclusions. When asked to produce some documentation, they could ignore the requests and simply repeat the fact that they knew in their hearts that their version of the family tree was correct.
Will the dogmatists win? Will online family trees become even more unreliable as they are taken over by the dogmatic bullies of the playground? Will the source-centric genealogists abandon the unified family trees in favor of creating their own playground where they can make everyone play by their rules?
This whole situation would be ludicrous if it weren't a rather accurate statement of the current conditions in the online family tree programs. This is something I write about regularly because the problem comes up with the same regularity. Is there a solution besides abandoning the Family Tree? The real issue is whether or not the Family Tree will reflect some semblance of reality or become a dumping ground for every unsupported family tradition and dogmatic and unsupported theory?