After having attended last week's IBGS--the 1st International Black Genealogy Summit---it became obvious to many in attendance that the value was on many levels. The opportunity to hear talented researchers was first and foremost, and of course the wonderful opportunity to utilize the resources at Allen County Public Library were an added plus. However, the opportunity to network and to meet others was a critical part of the event, and hopefully seeds were planted to establish new relationships and form new bonds genealogically as well as professionally.
I have often noted that many genealogists are "out there" doing their thing, but many if not most of us work in isolation---going through our task lists and proceeding where our interests and projects take us. However, at some time it is critical for those who have been researching for a long time to consider stepping outside of their comfort zone and sharing, what has been found, what has been learned and to begin to teach others.
There is much room for greater expression of ideas and interests among African American researchers, and there is a need for more of us to step up to the plate and teach, present, lecture, write articles, books, produce journals, develop websites, blogs and so much more. There are blogs, but we need more blogs. There are writers, but we need more writers. There are African American bloggers, but we need more of them.
The question arises---how does one get the ideas of those projects to undertake? The answer is simple----network!
Begin to listen to the projects and interests of your peers. Understand that your fellow genealogist has developed a vast amount of knowledge already pertaining to the geographic area in which he/she specializes and quite possibly has developed some resources about his/her community. If you have come to admire the work of one, and if the project has merit, it is worth considering developing the same thing for the community that you research.
While attending a genealogy chapter meeting today, a discussion for the coming year’s calendar arose. The activities of another well organized group in the Midwest was brought up as a model. Then it hit me---we have mentors among us.
We often speak admiringly of those who have impressed us, at events. We flocked by the hundreds to hear last week’s keynote speaker, Dorothy Spruill Redford. As researchers were are proactive people---when we get a clue we follow it. Well, perhaps we should treat each other as mentors---those fellow genealogists, whom we admire are actually our mentors, our models whether we have a relationship with them or not. As we listened to the wisdom of last week’s speaker---she is a model for us to follow.
The caliber of her research is sound, but her involvement in the community where her ancestors lived as slaves—is one for us emulate. Not all can become curators of an estate, but we all have a responsibility to own what we do---share it, present it, and to become well versed in the local history and work vehemently to put our history on the proper historical landscape.
The benefit of networking with our peers can bring about other new ventures and often fresh ideas. If you have a unique history---then become the most informed about the subject. We already have wonderful mentors among us. We can learn from the efforts of Timothy Pinnick who after learning that some of his ancestors were coal miners, became the national authority on black coal miners in the county.
There is the work of Angela Bates of Nicodemus Kansas who became the spokespersonand hsitorian for her family and community that were among the Exodusters from east of the Mississippi who settled and formed this black Kansas community.
What is your forte in your research? Are you searching a corner of the west? Become the authority.
Are you researching the Gullah communities, or the outer banks of NC?
Whatever your interest---find a model---like Dr. Agnes Kane Callum, who produced a journal once a year for 20 + years, on her ancestral county of St. Mary’s Maryland. Her self-published journal, Flower of the Forest, among her other books are now found in every major genealogical repository in the country. And we saw her books at Allen County Library last week.
The lesson is that we met many whom we admired last week and we walked away inspired.
Perhaps it is time to take that lesson forward a step and make that admired person a mentor and learn from them, and follow their footsteps.
The next generation will be blessed by the results of this networking and growing that we do, today.