Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mars, Venus, & Genealogy

At a friend's suggestion, I read John Gray's now classic work Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships (New York: HarperCollins, 1992). First of all, I want to admit that I am not a fan of self-help books, but this friend who recommended it was also not a fan of that genre of books. It took quite a bit of convincing to get me to locate our library's copy and check it out. I will have to admit that it was a very insightful look at the differences in the ways men and women communicate and why they so often misunderstand each other. For those who may not be familiar with the book, the author's premise is that men go into their "caves" to solve problems whereas women tend to talk them out. As I began to read the book, I wondered if that is the way that men and women approach genealogical problem solving as well. Do men tend to go off by themselves, find a quiet place, and put the pieces of the puzzle together? Do women tend to talk out the problem by sharing with other friends who are researchers or perhaps just talking through it to the dog or cat if there isn't a human nearby to listen? In my own experience, more of my female genealogical friends have shared the stories of their finds with me. Some have asked what I think; others just want me to listen to the find as they are puzzling it out for themselves. I have rarely had a man do this, although I have had it happen on occasion, but it's usually a much more specific question when a man asks. I really do think men tend to work more "alone" in the genealogical research process just from what I've observed in libraries. Far more women will strike up a conversation about what they are researching in a research room than will men. I see some of both sides of the equation in my own research methodology, but I'm not sure which is the dominant one. Maybe I should ask my cat! So, what do you think? Do men and women approach genealogical problems as Martians and Venusians respectively? I still haven't decided for sure, but I certainly see some evidence that it could be true.

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  • I think you may be on to something here. Now that you mentioned it, I stopped and thought about it and I have to say that I have made the same observations as you regarding men and women and they way they approach a genealogical problem.

    By Blogger Sheri, at 2:27 AM  

  • It will be interesting to see how others weigh in on the question. I don't necessarily agree with everything in the book, but I found some of the things very insightful. I just started thinking about the way we approach genealogical problem solving at the same time.

    By Blogger Lori Thornton, at 12:56 PM  

  • I agree to some extent. I hide in my cave and do research all day long, and Linda complains about it a lot (but she's rarely here when I am in my cave). I love the thrill of the hunt, the intellectual challenge of research and the detective story.

    But in society and conference circles, I'm a fairly decent social butterfly. I like helping people and sharing my research tips and techniques is a big part of my genealogy work.

    So I'm both - I'm happy as a pig in deep doodoo to research by myself, but I don't shy away from social interaction.

    By Blogger Randy Seaver, at 10:46 PM  

  • Thanks, Randy. It's nice to have a man chime in. I think all of us tend to be social butterflies at conferences, but I'm really talking about the specific task of genealogical problem solving, so it sounds like you might be a "cave man" for that!

    By Blogger Lori Thornton, at 11:12 PM  

  • Dear Cousin Lori, Nawwwwwwwwww! Men and women are not "wired" different [but the plumbing is indeed different] when it comes to solving genealogical problems. Men, being the greater believer in gossip as a valid source of information, arrive at solutions much more rapidly that do women researchers who never, ever even think of considering gossip as a source of information (and if they did they would agonize for hours over the correct Mills citation pattern). Not having to footnote all the good gossip genea-Facts, men just naturally get to the finish line first. Men researchers are not sitting in their caves contemplating how to solve a genealogy problem; they are sitting in their cave rethinking all of the "good stuff" they just heard.

    "Golsicar" to you too!
    P.S. Golsicar was the really neat word verification your site made me spell in order to send you this most important comment about why men act like they are from Mars and why women, bless their hearts, aren't.

    By Blogger Terry Thornton, at 9:35 PM  

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