Academic journal article Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

The Genealogist's Information World: Creating Information in the Pursuit of a Hobby

Academic journal article Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

The Genealogist's Information World: Creating Information in the Pursuit of a Hobby

Article excerpt

Introduction

Creating information, including how and why people build something new with information, has long been part of our lives and offers an important research focus. The creation of information may occur in a variety of contexts. However, we may overlook this creative process in the context of genealogy, a hobby often associated with older adults (e.g., Kuglin, 2004), whereas we may commonly associate creating information with user-generated content in participative online venues. Considering how genealogists use their research, including information they locate and patterns of finding information, to create something new may enrich our understanding of their hobby and the genealogist's information world. In this article, we explore genealogists' interactions with information to understand their process of information creation in the context of their hobby.

Genealogists and Information

Genealogy has long existed as a pastime or hobby. However, genealogy has deeper meaning for enthusiasts and offers a means of serious leisure (Fulton, 2009a, 2009b). Serious leisure is a "systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer core activity that captivates the participant with its challenges and complexity" (Stebbins, 2009; see also Stebbins, 1992, 2007). Genealogists are devoted researchers, who are often so immersed in their hobby that they treat the hobby as a commitment, much as one would do paid employment (Fulton, 2005, 2009a, 2009b).

Knowledge of information, as well as of pathways to information through sources and people are critical features of the hobby. For instance, Duff & Johnson (2003) reported that genealogists often use archival records and interactions with each other to resolve complex genealogical information problems. Genealogists commit themselves to their hobby community, taking advice from one another (Duff & Johnson, 2003) and often sharing information with expectations of reciprocal sharing (Fulton, 2005, 2009a). While genealogists have traditionally used archives, libraries, and other physical repositories of information, they have increasingly adopted technologies, such as family tree software, databases, and the Internet to facilitate their research. For instance, a survey Lucy (2015) conducted found that genealogists are increasingly using technology and the Internet to find and share information rather than visit institutions holding physical documents.

Various researchers have mapped the genealogical research process. Duff & Johnson (2003) suggested that genealogy is completed as an iterative process, changing problem-solving strategy as needed to continue to gather information. Friday (2014) offered a circular pattern of research, in which the genealogist is involved in actions, strategies and outcomes that may lead to new actions. Taking more of a skills level approach, Banville (2014) divided genealogists into three categories: (1) the filiation genealogist, (2) the genealogist researcher, and (3) the master genealogist. The filiation genealogist conducts research in primary and secondary sources to produce a pedigree chart. The genealogist researcher takes this first level of genealogical participation further, not only finding family information, but also solving complex genealogical problems and often collecting information found in a family history. The master genealogist possesses the skills of the previous two categories, completes complex information searching, and has high-level analytical skills. The master genealogist's work leads to such outputs as publications, conferences, training, and major research projects for private and public organisations. According to Banville (2014), most genealogists fit into categories one and two.

Researchers have further recognised genealogy as a means of creating social identity (e.g., Banville, 2014; Bishop, 2005). According to Bishop (2005), the genealogist is not only a collector of information, but also a storyteller who connects the information gathered with the past. …

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