Proposal: Genealogy & Family History

The current description is:

Proposed Q&A site for professional genealogists and people interested in genealogy or family history

Stack Overflow sites want sites that attract experts. That has now been expressed to me by some experienced Stack Exchange veterans.

They are right. We want the expert genealogists.

My one objection to the description is the word "professional", because professionals only make up a tiny portion of the experts in the genealogical community.

So hopefully that is not too much to ask.


Genealogy is a bit different than most fields. Most of the genealogy "experts" are people who have other professions but spent years of their spare time doing research or volunteering for genealogical societies and being involved in their favorite pastime - genealogy.

Genealogy "professionals" are the few who get certification so they can do research for others. They are usually specialized to a specific type/place of research, just like a PhD in any discipline.

In other fields, such as programming, the "professionals" are the true experts. They spend their working hours programming - and they therefore make up the bulk of the programming experts. Leisure-time programmers seldom have the same level of expertise.

But that is not the case in genealogy. Leisure-time genealogists often become experts and don't need a "professional" designation to indicate such. They spend as many hours and have as much experience as the professionals do. The expert non-professional genealogists probably outnumber the professionals 1000 to 1.

Stack Overflow's description is: "Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers"

Would you change Stack Overflow's description to: "Q&A for programmers with PhD's and other people interested in programming"?

That is sort of what the Genealogy & Family History description feels like to me. Yes, all other professional programmers without PhD's are included in the latter, but they won't like having to be classified there. They will feel subservient.

  • 1
    Proposed Q&A site for professionals, amateurs and enthusiasts interested in genealogy and family history.
    – Adam
    Sep 24, 2012 at 23:28
  • What about - Proposed Q&A site for Genealogists and Family Historians.
    – Graeme
    Sep 25, 2012 at 4:49
  • One clarification: I would guess the majority of "Professional" Genealogists are not certified. Certification provides a standard that can be counted on, but there is no requirement to have it. Oct 4, 2012 at 5:35
  • @lkessler You make such a great point in this question! All other proposals and even existing sites supposedly catering to "professionals" should take from it. "Professional" is a tempting shorthand for "people who are serious about this topic", but what difference does it make, in the end, if dealing with the topic happens to make you money? (Just to argue the other side, you could say it's a guard against people who might think they are experts but are not, since "professional" is more objective. Still, closing off participation based on that is pretty extreme.)
    – A.M.
    Jul 17, 2013 at 18:25

6 Answers 6


On second (and third :)) thought, we looked closer at the arguments presented here and in various email conversations and we have come to agree that "expert" makes more sense in this field than "professional".

I updated the proposal description to read:

Proposed Q&A site for expert genealogists and people interested in genealogy or family history

  • 1
    Thanks Anna. I believe the genealogy community will fall in love with the Stack Exchange Q&A format, and it will be used the way intended - with intelligent questions and expert answers.
    – lkessler
    Sep 28, 2012 at 19:00

Looks like he took Jeni's suggestion.

How about "Q&A site for professional genealogists and people interested in Genealogy or Family History" – Jeni Sep 20 at 8:43

  • Legs: You got the reason. And then Robert said: "@Jeni That sounds pretty good. It avoids that circular feeling and seems to address most of the concerns raised. I'll wait for any objections". GeneJ then commented but didn't object. I didn't take enough notice, or I would have objected (as I did above). It's the emphasis on "professionals" that is wrong, and that even turns me off. @RobertCartaino Not an objection to Jeni's wording, only seeking an acknowledgement that the word "professional genealogist" means different things, especially internationally. – GeneJ Sep 21 at 13:32
    – lkessler
    Sep 25, 2012 at 0:22

Q&A for professional and enthusiast genealogists and family historians.


I agree with dropping the term "professional". There's a very interesting discussion on the RootsWeb TGF mailing list about what it means, and it has opened a can of worms.

Does it simply mean working for money? Does the 'professional' adjective simply mean of good quality? Does it apply to other fields than commissioned research such as academic research, writing, blogging, etc? Should it be regulated? ... and so on.

I wonder why we need to qualify it at all. Our answers will (I hope) be of 'expert quality' but why do we need to categorise or filter the people asking the questions? Surely, the fact they've found the site, and have a question to ask, means they are interested in the subject. Even if they're only "newbies" now, they may be part of tomorrows' experts.


  • 1
    Tony: The Stack Exchange model is based on having the "experts" in a specific field being involved in a site. That way, many of the questions that those interested in the subject have will be answered by experts. But experts will only participate if the questions are of high quality. So these two things: high-quality questions and experts in attendance are the keys to a successful Q&A site. Other people coming (newbies) will then see the high quality of the Q's and A's and will then follow the standard that has been set for them and allow the site to grow.
    – lkessler
    Sep 29, 2012 at 15:09

It definitely gives too much of an emphasis to "professional genealogists" and I know some people do not want that said that way.


The Stack Exchange model works from the top down. You draw in experts first and foremost, because expert knowledge will draw in the lay person. If you start a site by saying that experts in particular will be welcome, then you are sending signals that the site will actually involve things experts care about. If you start a site focusing on amateurs or other people on the low end of the scale, then you're sending the message that experts will be wasting their time with menial stuff that they've been doing for years.

This is why Stack Overflow works. And the #1 threat to SO is an influx of boring, tedious debug-my-code questions from "everyone else" that wastes the time of those genuinely knowledgeable and drives them away.

So yes, the site description needs to show that the site is about experts first and foremost.

  • 2
    Experts, yes. "professionals", no. Change "professional" to "expert" or "knowledgable" or "experienced" or some like word and I'd be happy.
    – lkessler
    Sep 25, 2012 at 0:32
  • 2
    Proposed Q&A site for expert genealogists and others interested in genealogy or family history
    – lkessler
    Sep 25, 2012 at 0:35
  • Sounds perfect!
    – Jeni
    Sep 25, 2012 at 10:57
  • Proposed Q&A site for genealogists, family historians and others interested in genealogy or family history. Sep 26, 2012 at 10:56
  • "Genealogy Q&A;" no question too BIG, no question too small. Enter advanced, begginer, or professional, come one and come all. Oct 1, 2012 at 0:06

I'd suggest: "Proposed site for expert answers to genealogical and family history questions"

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