Friday, December 19, 2014

Ferguson: Unintentional Bias - Call to Action for program chairs

What strikes me is the mutual respect expressed by Geoff Rasmussen and George Geder  and others as we've discussed publicly and privately What does Ferguson teach the genealogy community? Mutual respect is key.

I also see George's suggesting we actually look at history objectively and realistically. He said "I feel that American history cannot be truthfully told without input and stories from African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Latin Americans."

There has been a big thrust in the past several years to involve youth in family history.

Now it's time to embrace diversity and provide programming that attracts people with diverse ancestral connections.

Let's embrace each other, encourage each other, as we strive to employ the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) in our research.

Let's forgive each other, and see beyond the color of our skin.

On a personal level, I wish the British Institute would hold a series of Welsh research, but if I can see a schedule that include a series every other year, then I can switch gears, take a course to improve my writing or learning more about DNA. I cannot expect Scottish, Irish and English courses to fall to the wayside.

If diversity of ethnic, religious and locality studies is at least on the docket that's a step in the right direction. Hopefully, RootsTech, the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and other major genealogy education providers on and off the Net will get this message. 
Ol' Myrt here can just hear the folks at saying "She's off her rocker, RootsTech topics cannot be decided until a few months before the conference."

To this I say "Seriously? I'm not talking anything more than having a focus topic, as Samford has done. Seeing that focus my dear RootsTech, will shift your focus toward diversity." What would that look like, RootsTech/FamilySearch?
  • 2014 - African Continent Research - FamilySearch missionaries are documenting the oral histories of families by providing youth with equipment who then return info. (By the way, where are the results of this work going to appear?)
  • 2015 - African American Research - When professional genealogists realize this is your focus, they will be encouraged to develop unique presentations in workshop, panel discussion and classes. As the public recognizes the focus, they'll be encouraged to participate.
  • 2016 - Focus on Spanish Language Research. If demographics are important, recall simply the single largest segment of LDS Church members and an increasing percentage of the US population speak Spanish.
  • 2017 - Focus on Native American Research.Thinking globally, this could be called "Indigenous Peoples."
  • 2018 - Focus on Asian American Research, realizing the the Pacific Islands and places in South America were part of a migration pattern, maybe this might better be styled "Pacific Rim"?

So, my dear friends at #RootsTech, #FamilySearch, #NGSgenealogy, #FGS and #WDYTYALive, how can we take the lead in attracting greater participation and avoid what Eva Goodwin calls "unintentional bias?"


Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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  1. Pat, thank you. Perhaps the other RootsTech 2015 Ambassadors can make suggestions and elaborations, not necessarily directed to FamilySearch.

    1. DearGEOLOVER,
      Not wishing to write an all-inclusive set of suggestions, Ol' Myrt here confined her sample suggestions to RootsTech/FamilySearch, arguably the largest single genealogy conference in the world. I tend to think of RootsTech/FamilySearch as the "leader" in the conference world.

      Unlike NGS, FGS and others, RootsTech has the same venue and same primary sponsor (FamilySearch). There are advantages to not having to reinvent the wheel every years owing to constraints of the venue.

    2. Dear Pat,

      My suggestion was in no way a criticism of your excellent template suggested for FamilySearch.

      The 2015 RootsTech conference is conjoined with FGS's event, and attendees of both will represent, be members of, or create an incredibly widespread number of efforts. On the FGS side I have been unable to detect a grouping equivalent to the RootsTech Ambassadors, designated as such to communicate externally concerming RootsTech's efforts.

      It seems to me that it is possible to stretch the Ambassador definition toward acting as a body. It is a fairly large group, and each has their own priorities, but perhaps a significant number could take up your challenge and focus it where their voices will be heard.

      Further, it might be conceivable that the Ambassadors as a group could sponsor one or two forums for further exploration by attendees of this mammoth conference. It is late to consider organizing such a thing, but perhaps there could at least be some communication among the Ambassadors in that direction. Adding and changing roles are part of everyone's life-path. This just seems to me to present a most timely opportunity.

    3. RootsTech 2015 Ambassadors are similar to the FGS2015 Ambassadors, except the latter volunteer.

      I will bring up the topic at the RootsTech 2015 Ambassadors' dinner the night before RootsTech 2015 opens.

      RootsTech 2015 Ambassadors cannot be expected to sponsor a track, which I know a few years ago at NGS cost roughly $10,000. Your suggestion is a good one, but since Ambassadors only receive free access to RootsTech and a dinner as mentioned above, they would have no funds to sponsor a track.

      I know that RootsTech entertains "last minute" topics that are technology related, because of the fast pace of technology.

      Let's see what they are willing to do.

    4. You think a track would be useful? I could fund it in neighborhood you mention. Or more limited space-rental if available. Availability might be more of a problem than funding.

    5. Should clarify. There are a couple of subjects on the table.

      1) a Track such as you suggested for FamilySearch. This does have to be sensitive to opening comments by "sweetlisa" on Dec. 16. It's really late to try to organize such a thing.

      2) Discussion: how to get both leading and local organizations to utilize the expertise of Persons of Color (e.g., expanding the rolodex). Prevalence in most of the oldest organizations of at least "unintentional bias" practically goes without saying, but does need saying. As Michele Martin (National Public Radio reporter) notes, it is always useful to look around and ask, "who is not here?"

      3) What do the expert People of Color think about this sort of effort and how to go about it? Who is talking to them? I read a few blogs I am aware of, but am unable to attend conferences.