Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mentoring in Genealogy

I was awakened early this morning by a text message arriving from a local news media outlet announcing Pat Head Summitt's death. Although the news of her imminent death came to us a couple of days earlier, it really did not mitigate our sense of loss when the news of her death was received.

Former Vol football player and NFL star Peyton Manning spoke of her friendship and support in a statement he released. He mentioned seeking her advice when he was trying to decide whether to turn pro early or to complete his final year of eligibility at University of Tennessee. He also spoke of the impact she had on players both on and off the court. Perhaps the most touching words of his entire statement came near the end of his statement. He said, "It would have  been a great experience to play for her. She could have coached any team, any sport, men's or women's. It wouldn't have mattered because Pat could flat out coach." As I looked at these words, I thought about the role of mentoring in genealogy. Are we as genealogists truly mentoring the next generation of genealogists in the same way Pat Summitt impacted her players? Pat kept her standards high, but her players learned so much. I think Elizabeth Shown Mills is a genealogist who fits the description. She continues to emphasize the "fundamentals" of sound genealogical research while taking her students to the next level. (I use "students" in the sense of those who took courses from her at IGHR or similar venues and those who attended lectures by her at national conferences or at regional or local venues.)

I am concerned because I see so many younger genealogical speakers emphasizing tools rather than fundamentals of sound research. I admit I sometimes have been guilty of the same thing, but I recently modified a couple of my presentations emphasizing tools (because they are in demand with societies) to include examples of sound genealogical research being presented in these tools. I do not know if everyone picks up on what I am trying to do, but I know from comments that some do. I hope all of us are conscious of our role in mentoring the next generation of genealogists and continue to emphasize the fundamentals in such a way it leads our mentees to reach the next level in their own research. 

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