Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Angels, the Donkeys and the Prodigal Son

My recent post on the Transitional List about people who make other people feel bad about their genealogy.

Everyone was ______(insert appropriate term here)__________ in the beginning. For fifteen years I was alone in the wilderness and I did not understand source, much less evidence, but I had a lot of facts. But my house was built of cards on a foundation of sand. And then I learned that there were rules, but they were funny rules. They were rules you could chose to adhere to, or not. At first I stumbled among the petunias, but I found faith in myself and my ability. Misplaced as it might have been at the time. And then I gained courage, and I presented myself to the special people. And I found that my fear of them was misplaced. That they welcomed me, even with my arrogance and my bravado. And they helped me. And it was good. And I learned that genealogy is like the world, everything, almost, is a normal curve. That there are angels on one end and donkeys on the other, but that generally in the middle are people that help me and I help them, as I can.

I avoid donkeys. They tend to be stubborn, kick a lot, and believe they are the angels. But you know the angels. The angels have a funny thought. They think we all should be angels. The donkeys, they are afraid of you. You are competition. The angels love competition, because it makes us all better.

So when you think someone is being a donkey you have to examine the situation. Because what you think might be a donkey, really might be an angel helping you to become an angel. None of us is perfect, not even the angels. If you think you are perfect in your genealogy you might be a donkey in the making. You have to look at your palace and see if it really is a house of cards.

Genealogy is a wide field of endeavor with millions of people with opinions about things. Among them are people with badges. The badges are unimportant to you. A badge does not grant anyone special powers. A badge does not make a donkey anything other than a donkey with a badge. Angels don't need badges, but they like to test themselves and keeping a  badge is a good way to do that. But it does not make them a better angel. They are just an angel with a badge. And by definition, an angel does not know they are an angel. If they think they are an angel, by definition they are not.

So my advice is that if you pay attention to the first two chapters, live by the words source, evidence and fact, and recognize the relationship that exists between them you will be fine.

And the next time you are at a conference and you see a group of people that you think are people that understand the first two chapters really well, sit down and talk with them. And if they aren't having a meeting, you will be welcome. That meeting part is always a problem. But you will figure it out.

This is by far the easiest group in the world to join. It let me be a member in 1985 and it helped to make me a better genealogist.

So evaluate the criticisms. If they are donkey, chalk it up to mean spirit and move on. Dwelling on it just foolish, donkeys are every where. But if you can see their point then learn from it and move on a better genealogist. And that is what really counts, becoming a better genealogist.


A good friend said he was half donkey, half angel, but I think he is one of the seraphim. Six wings, only two working, flying around the angels and learning from them. That is what I feel like. Burning to learn more. Singing Holy, Holy, Holy. I think that describes him well.

And the ostrich, he is one of those also.

I hope I am one also.


  1. I love this post. I'm glad you shared on your blog and not just in the newsgroup.

  2. Just wanted to let you know that your blog is listed in my Fab Finds post today at

    Have a great weekend!