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Wired up and ready to go, I don't sit still for long! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NextGens: the new generation of genealogy

Genealogy for All

Genealogy is such a fascinating topic for all generational groups to share.   Pursuing family history is such a personal agenda that finds relevancy with many for many different reasons. Family, records, oral histories, medical history, cemetery trips, photographs, and putting it all together has something that can interest everyone.  This is the beautiful thing about genealogy research.  It can reach across different ages and bring generations together for a common cause.  Genealogy has much to offer for the experienced, the gadget gurus, writers, social historians, and new converts.

Each generation has something fresh and different to offer as everyone has their personal strengths.  Those that have been researching for quite a while maybe know research methods and citation skills, while those that are newer (or younger) may have developed technology techniques.  The key is to find a goal in common and use strengths to add to the family story.  So often I hear from many people that there is no one in their family that is interested in genealogy except them and they have no one to pass it forward and the younger generation is not interested in preserving heritage.  Genealogy is such a huge investment of time, energy, and money that many wish for their research to be preserved or have someone to add to it. But are the younger generations really not interested in genealogy?  Or are they interested in a different kind of genealogy?

Generation X
I am a Generation Xer through and through.  I am part of the 13th generation to live in the United States and think change can be good.  Pragmatism, realism, and perception are important to me.  There is no need for prestige or  high position and think someone should be rewarded for the work they do rather then seniority.  Yes, I can remember before computers when I actually wrote school reports by hand and used a rotary telephone. And I love love love punk rock.

Generation Y (Millenials)
The next generation, Generation Y (also called Millenials) and those born after, grew up with various communication tools, media, and digital technologies and most are completely savvy with them!  They are mostly very expressive, multi taskers, and have greater expectations of others and themselves.  Trust is very hard for this generation to give.  This generation hears a lot of blended music rather then genres and they can plug into their favorite media almost anywhere.

Baby Boomers
Let's compare these two generation with the Baby Boomers.  As part of the post WWII baby boom, many of this generation are considered career focused and enjoy their authority due to their hard work.  They are independent, confident, and self reliant.  And this generation loves their rock and roll.

Each Generation is Unique
What does understanding the differences between the generations have to do with genealogy?  Simply put, understanding characteristics of the generations can help a person relay family history information, communicate with others, and appreciate what each other has to offer. 

Even though I am a Gen Xer, I consider myself a Next Generation Genealogist.   Perhaps most of Generation Y and the Millenials would be considered part of this group.  Call it a post-modern view or a paradigm shift of genealogy.  Although I did not grow up with computers, cell phones, and videogames, as a NextGenGenie I can appreciate how they have shaped our society and allowed everyone to have information at their fingertips.  I like to social network, email, and use various software to help document and preserve my research. I love my iphone and mobile applications.  It is pragmatic for me to use them as they are available and highly used by other family researchers.  It is realistic for me as I can gain more information in a short amount of time.  And I can also stay connected to family and friends with the same genealogy goal.  Professional certification and lineage societies where length of time and service determines the position rather than the right stuff of the person do not interest me.  Not all, but I am sure many of my fellow GenXers feel the same way.

Patience and Work It Out!
So how can the generations help each other?  All of us are here for the same reason. 
Before computers, genealogy was readily accomplished by networking through letters and visiting family.  Paper files were organized and stored in a file cabinet or box.  Networking and organization are still visible in genealogy today, but in a different form.  Now there is email, social websites, and digital libraries.  Those of the older generations (mine included) might be guided by the multimedia trends that GenYers and Millenials use in order to preserve information for the future.  This allows the younger generation to be expressive and help where they can.  It can also help them feel accepted through their contributions.  Digital video oral histories, digital media libaries, family history videos, mashups, online and shared family trees are all something that they can help create.  Just ask them to show you how and they may start asking questions and show their interest.  In return, the younger generations will learn to appreciate the dedication and thoroughness of the older generations research knowledge.  Working together everyon will be able to appreciate their heritage.