Sunday, June 26, 2016

Kickin' it with Elizabeth Shown Mills and Zongamin

In 2013, I attended the last Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis course taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills at IGHR. One of the smart-alecky students asked her if there was any genealogical problem she could not solve and she quickly answered "no." That, in itself, was one of the most baller things I have ever heard and at that moment, I decided, I wanted to be able to say the same thing when asked. I undertook the discipline of studying the standards, understanding the standards and applying the standards in a Rocky-esq way so that it would become second nature; no "niche" just plain-ole genealogical standards and methodology that was applicable to all time periods, all regions and all ethnicities.

Something epic happened about 30 years ago in genealogy and you probably missed it. Elizabeth posted a timely and timeless essay "Ethnicity and the Southern Genealogist: Myths and Misconceptions, Resources and Opportunities," in Generations and Change: Genealogical Perspectives in Social History. She goes right for the jugular of the "melting pot" cliché, anti-hypodescent and misconceptions that still haunt genealogy to this day as more cultures show up to the table.

One by one, she knocks down the myths in true ESM style:
"The traditional genealogist, unconscious of this self-imposed isolation [the lack of knowing about resources other peoples have to offer], approaches the source materials at his disposal with arbitrary ethnic lines already drawn in his own mind."
This should apply to your education. You may not have [race, time, region] ancestors, but you should still know about and understand the nuances.

Race and discussing race in genealogy is still a touchy topic in America. Ranging from color blind racism to denial, this is interwoven in the structure of the United States. Ignoring it and talking around it only adds to the pain and puts off an inevitable discussion.

And it impacts us today. I cannot just pick one race or culture to assign to myself because I am multicultural. Picking Japanese or Hawaiian means I am ignoring the others. I cannot be or have a niche. With that, I must understand and apply methodology to all.

Read it here: Mills, Elizabeth Shown. “Ethnicity and the Southern Genealogist: Myths and Misconceptions, Resources and Opportunities.” Robert M. Taylor Jr. and Ralph J. Crandall, eds. Generations and Change: Genealogical Perspectives in Social History.  Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986. Digital image. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Historic Pathways. : 26 June 2016.

Proper genealogy warrior music is Zongamin. Wear your favorite hat with it.