Showing posts with label genealogy as a social science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label genealogy as a social science. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In for a penny, in for $14,000?

Next spring, in April, I will graduate, with my second bachelor's degree, from the University of North Florida with a double major in history and Spanish.  I am contemplating, with the enthusiastic support of my family, friends, and professors, applying to the graduate school at the University of North Florida, for a Master of Arts in history.  I am just about decided I am going to do it, but I am also wanting to make very sure that I am doing it for reasons that are mine, and not to live up to the expectations of others.

With that in mind, I will soon be taking a little bit of a "retreat" at the home of friends who have eminent good sense, and cats to pet.  The cats will offer their own wisdom, which I shall take into consideration as well. 

Reasons to do it:
  • I am already doing original research into the family structure of St. Augustine, having begun that under a grant from the university for independent undergraduate research.  Why not get another degree out of it, one which can open more doors?
  • As my major professor pointed out, the structure of a master's program can only help strengthen my work on that research.
  • The master's program may also open doors to sources I would otherwise not have access to, and provide contact with historians I might not otherwise have an opportunity to meet.
  • The credential of a master's degree may help me in getting published.
Reasons not to do it:
  • Money.  But my husband has said we will find it.
  • My health.  That is a bit of a sticking point, and I intend to talk to my doctor.
  • Three dreaded letters:  GRE (the Graduate Record Examination).  However, according to an e-mail from the Graduate School at UNF, since I already have a master's degree (Library science, Florida State University, 1970) and took the GRE for that, I do not have to take it again.
So that last negative comes off the list, leaving a puny two in contrast to the four very solid points on the plus side.

Another reason to do it is that my research into the family structure of St. Augustine is based not in history, strictly speaking, but in genealogy.  Genealogy is slowly making its way into the academy.  Of course, Brigham Young University has had a degree-granting program in the field -- the only one in the country -- for a long time.  Now Boston University and other institutions are offering courses in genealogy.  I hope that my project, and the future work I do with that master's degree in history, will make a contribution, however small, to genealogy's acceptance as an academic discipline.

That alone would be worth it to me to do the work and take the time that getting the master's degree will involve.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Careers in Genealogy: My Own Humble Path

I just read Amy Coffin's "We Tree" entry about careers in genealogy, and her take on the subject.  Here's mine:

I have chosen to speak and write.  I do not make much money at it because, due to my health, I cannot work at it full time.  I do as much as I can, while getting the rest I need and while dealing with the occasional difficulties my health status tosses me.  So I'm a part-timer.

I chose speaking and writing because I enjoy talking about the subject, yet I am also very much a loner.  I enjoy solitude.  I just love sitting in a library or archive, tracking down genealogical or historical facts.  I also enjoy the process of writing -- taking all those facts and weaving them into a coherent whole.  I very much enjoyed putting together my last book, Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources.  And now that the grant period is over, and all I need to do now is get an article written for the university's scholarly journal, the "project" concerning St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period is no longer the "project."  It is the "book."

I write in a field that is not exactly known for blockbuster best-sellers, and I write about "niche" subjects within that small sphere.  That is all right with me.  I have made enough to further my education, picking up skills and knowledge which will make me more effective working on this particular book about St. Augustine, as well as further researches I plan on the colonial Spanish lineages and history of Florida.  And I hope that by presenting this examination of the families of St. Augustine, using a genealogical as well as historical approach, under the auspices of a university grant, I will have made my little tiny contribution toward bringing genealogy to its rightful place in the academy as one of the social sciences.  I agree with Amy, that great days are in store for genealogy.  I think recognition as an academic discipline will be one of those great things.

I am fortunate in that my husband has a retirement which, while not allowing us to be in any way extravagant, allows us to be comfortable.  I do not have to work to live.  I speak and write on genealogical/historical subjects because I enjoy it and because I do want to make some contribution to the field.  Each of us, doing our little bit and putting our one little brick into the walls, will help construct a fine edifice of genealogical knowledge.