Tuesday 4 March 2014

Let's Have An Attitude of Gratitude

Between my catholic school education (complete with nuns) and spending quality time in the American South, I have learned that life is so much easier if you are polite, thankful, and try your darnedest to be a good sport.

Being polite means listening to hear what others have to say rather than to plan your response, asking for something with a smile and a please, receiving something with a smile and a thank you, disagreeing with someone without being disagreeable, and realizing that you don’t have to raise your voice or your blood pressure to get your point across.

Being thankful means appreciating what you have, not judging your good fortune based against others’ good fortune, taking joy in happy surprises that come your way, expressing gratitude for recognition that you receive with a simple thank you and not feeling the need to qualify it, demean it, or complain when others receive recognition.

Saying Thanks is Simple and Universal
Image made with Wordle.net - thanks

By being prepared and being respectful of those who assist me, I have always had excellent results with my research at libraries, archives, historical societies, funeral homes, cemeteries, and genealogy meetings and seminars. For the most part (whether online or offline) the genealogy community is welcoming and helpful. But everyone wants to be asked politely, thanked for their help, and acknowledged for their assistance. If someone provides genealogy services for a fee or cost, they should be treated with the same respect and courtesy that we treat our dentist, cashier, doctor, food server, teacher, lawyer, plumber, or accountant rather than harangued for charging a fee for services (it is not about the title, the degree, or the payment - it is about treating all others with respect).

By taking delight in my genealogy finds, offering to share my skills, and thanking people who have helped me, I express an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes we forget that the presentation, book, position, or award does not appear overnight (there are no genealogy fairies toiling away at night while we sleep). In order to give a presentation, that genealogist had to come up with a lecture topic and put together her presentation. In order to be the featured speaker at a conference, that genealogist had to respond to a call for papers and put together his presentation. In order to be the president or chair of an organization, that genealogist had to put in hours of volunteer time and work her way up the ladder. In order to be published either in a magazine or journal or publish a book, that genealogist had to sell his concept and then follow through with the entire writing, editing and rewriting process.

Oftentimes the genealogy world seems a bit like a school playground. The good news is that there is plenty of room on the playground for any genealogist who wants to join in, play nicely with others, and have some fun. 

Let's All Play Together and Cheer Each Other On
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net ID-10072556

The bad news is that just like on every other playground, sometimes we won’t get picked for the team, or we might not win, or perhaps we don’t want to play the game of the day. And just like on the school playground – we are going to have to learn to get along, be kind, and encourage everyone to take a turn. Let’s not be those mean kids (the bullies on the playground) that none of us liked in school. Let’s be good sports (no matter how hard that is sometimes). I was reminded of this because of two recent events.

Many of us watched the Olympics, which dominated the news cycle in February. It is always interesting to watch the journey these athletes take – they have a real skill in a particular sport that only a few other athletes in the world can attain. Whether individually or as part of a team they do their best on a given day and hope to win. On that particular day talent, luck, persistence, and sometimes a judge’s subjective determination or the clock will be the deciding factor on whether they win, place or simply get to compete on the Olympic level. Watching the medal ceremony for women’s hockey I was a bit saddened and disappointed – I know that team USA played their hearts out and they wanted to win, but it was not their gold moment. Why? Because team Canada played just as hard and pulled it out at the end with talent, sheer determination and luck.  The majority of the team USA members accepted their silver medals with sad faces, tears and frowns – it was almost as if having not won gold, silver just did not matter. The few team USA members who smiled and had kind words in response to the medal presenter made me especially proud. Why? Because no matter how hard that moment was for them, those women exhibited good sportsmanship and were excellent role models for young athletes. It’s hard but sometimes, in sports and in everyday life, you have to suck it up and show good sportsmanship.

Last week Family Tree Magazine published an article entitled “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow” which appeared online and is in their March/April 2014 print edition. I happened to see a link to the article Tuesday morning on Google+ and clicked through to see if I could find some new people to follow on the various social media platforms. The writer listed 40 feeds she considered worth following from blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. As I read through the list I made a note of two new-to-me blogs, reminded myself that I should visit Facebook more than once a month, wondered what my Pinterest password was so I could check out her picks, and then was totally surprised (thrilled, excited and proud – the very definition of "doing the happy dance") to see my YouTube Channel listed as one to check out. No false modesty here - I put time and effort into my videos and it was so very nice to have Lisa Louise Cooke acknowledge it and direct other genealogists to check out my channel.

We Will Have Many Turns to Shine
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net ID-100143548

Fast forward 90 minutes and the article, list and various posts on social media went viral in the genealogy community with posts both from those who received and those who did not receive a mention – some sharing the news, others wondering why their favorite social media genealogist was not included, others making additions to the list or suggesting in their opinion better choices, some writing separate posts about whether having these types of lists is a good or bad thing for the genealogy community. Wow, it didn't take long to smack that hornet’s nest – and the list was not even one of those that we often see that claims to be “the best, the top choices, the rock stars, the gurus, or the gold, silver & bronze medalists” – it was simply 40 to check out and perhaps follow. Now I might be biased because this time I was named to the list, but I know that in the past I have congratulated those who have been named to any of these types of lists, especially those who appear for the first time, and I am genuinely happy for them.

So while there were many responses to the article and the list (and in the past there have been many responses to many such lists) might I suggest that the polite, thankful and good sportsmanlike response is simply “thank you so much” if you were named to the list and “good for you” or “congratulations you must be so thrilled” if you see the name of a fellow genealogist.  Let’s all play nice, have an attitude of gratitude, and just be happy for others when get their moment.

Good on You!
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net ID-100200659

Thanks for reading - Tessa Keough


  1. Amen to that! I have stopped (or intend to stop) following a number of genealogists whose blogs, tweets and other social media posts do not (in my opinion) 'play nice' as defined in your wise comments.

    1. Thanks Judy - I have to say I was so overwhelmed with the negative comments that I just had to reflect on it for a few days before I commented (always important for me to think before I speak). There are so many opportunities that I truly believe there is lots of room for all us.

  2. What a great post! I think the journey and those that help us are in fact more important than the prize at the end! Sometimes ego gets in the road. Good on you for bring this to everyone's attention

  3. Tessa this was a great post and I am glad you shared it here. I know that I have commented previously on my own blog about various awards and the positive and negative of them.

    I was truly delighted to see you named on the list of 40 blogs because your Twenty with Tessa videos deserve it. They are informative and add value to the genealogical community. Likewise, other genealogical buddies have been nominated and received those on-line awards (at least one blogs at Worldwide Genealogy!) and I have been truly delighted because those individuals deserve the recognition of what they contribute to the wider genealogical community.

    Having our individual talents, achievements and attributes acknowledged within the genealogical community is wonderful and we should and deserve to be, proud of those talents and achievements. What we do not deserve is for others who do not get a mention to stamp their genealogical feet in rage. That is not playing nicely! No one has the right to rain on anyone's joy, and proud moment in genealogical recognition. Indeed, those that do are bad sports.

    My Mum passed to me many many things, one of which was to be comfortable in your own skin, do as you want and be brave enough to stand strong with those who want to pull you down.

    On a personal note, I am an achiever, but not at the detriment of friends and the people around me. I achieve my standing on the back of my work and if that is recognised then good, but if not, such is life. I am am proud of me, does it really matter what others think?

    On the whole the genealogical world is a friendly, supportive and funny one. There are numerous people who give plenty to the community and support one another, but there are also surprises too, those that massage their egos in public and chose to position themselves above the rest, believing they are better then the rest. It is okay to believe you are better, but pretty bad form to voice it.

    For me this is all about what we can bring to the genealogical community rather than what the genealogical community can do for us. If there is a degree of free flow then great, but to exploit one more than the other is not I feel a good place to be.

    This contributors of this blog give testament to what can be achieved within the blogging world, a collaboration of individuals sharing their knowledge, support and simply just taking part, because it is not always about winning.

  4. Congratulations Tessa - wise words about being thankful and acknowledging the contribution of others....not to mention asking nicely. All those things our mothers taught us along the way.

    Overall I think the blogging community is one of the most supportive and collaborative "workplaces" I've ever been involved with.

  5. Congrats Tessa. Simple.

    Well done. True.

    Standing in awe. Truthful, your techy giving side is more than amazing to me.

    Thank you. Heartfelt.

  6. A super post Tessa!
    Love it.

  7. Fabulous post with such a strong point that (sadly) people do need to reminded of. Treat others as you wish to be treated. And a please and thankyou go such a long way.

  8. Hi Tessa,

    Congratulations on being mentioned amongst a list of sites to follow. Fabulous news.

  9. A great post and you are so right. Your catchy title should be a motto for us all. I must admit I have found the geneabloggers community without fail supportive, friendly and helpful. However I do get irritated by Ancestry users who download my photographs onto their family tree without so much as an approach to me. I will gladly give permission, but it would be nice to be asked. I have now stopped adding any more of my photos to this site., for this reason. .

    1. Sue, I feel the same way about Ancestry family trees. At the moment I only have a free account at Ancestry, so I can't contact people about their trees; but I occasionally (and temporarily) add a small section of mine in 'bare bones' format (name, year, place). I prefer to put my family tree on Rootsweb's WorldConnect, where anyone can see it and contact me by email (no subscriptions needed) but I can prevent people from downloading it.

    2. ScotSue, if you have originally contributed the photo that is acknowledged every time someone else attaches the photo to your tree. Is that not enough acknowledgement? It is for me, but I'll admit I've gained more from having a public tree than perhaps others have. I also comb the recent activity on my Ancestry home page and when someone has downloaded things from my tree, I reach out to them and have found many wonderful people that way. Some were hesitant to reach out to me because they were just starting out (so am I) and some never paid attention to who originally posted the photo or story but were glad to hear from me. Some have become true friends.

  10. This was wonderfully written. Thank you and congrats to you too!! :-)

  11. Congratulations on being included on the list. Now I need to go watch some of your videos. I haven't watched many genealogy youtube items yet.

  12. Sorry to be so late in stopping by to offer congratulations!. I love following you. :)

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  14. Tessa, congratulations and wonderful post! I've found the blogging community to be wonderfully supportive, especially the collaborators here. But you write true words of wisdom.


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