In my early thirties, I am almost always the youngest person in the room when I attend anything genealogy related. When I first joined my local genealogy society, Marin County Genealogical Society, I was intimidated by the room full of people older than me. I quickly learned that this was my own insecurity as everyone was very welcoming.
I have also realized that age is no issue in my society. The reality is that there are different levels of experience in researching. I have learned from some of the people who have years of knowledge to share. In return, I have shared some of the things I have learned with members who are just starting out. I love walking into meetings now so I can see the people I consider friends.
At the beginning of November I attended a day long genealogy seminar in the Bay Area. I had a blast meeting new people and learning new things. I had only one negative experience during the day and it took me by complete surprise.
At the beginning of the program, the host genealogy society, San Mateo Genealogical Society, announced that their Spring seminar would feature a well-known genealogist, D Joshua Taylor. As I was there to see Tom Jones, I was impressed with the quality of speakers that was on the menu. At lunch the Spring Seminar was discussed. One of the women at the table expressed that she would not be attending because she wondered what Josh Taylor would have to offer being so young. She felt that Tom Jones as a more experienced researcher would be able to teach her new things.
I quickly shut my mouth and counted to three before saying something I would regret. I then calmly replied that I plan to attend. I continued that I believe Josh Taylor will have a fresh perspective to offer and that his 15 years of experience was nothing to sneeze at. I ended by joking that it will be nice to not be the youngest in the room if only by a couple of years. The things running through my head were not very nice so I will not repeat them.
When I got home, I told my husband about the conversation and was shocked at the anger I felt when recounting it. After processing my feelings, here is what I think about this case of reverse ageism:
1. It will be her loss if she does not attend the Spring seminar. D Joshua Taylor is a genealogy superstar in the making. If this woman does not appreciate what he has accomplished under the age of 30, she just doesn’t get it.
2. I am super thankful that this is the only time I have felt my age was an issue.
3. The genealogy community has many wonderful younger researchers. We bring a different perspective that augments the views of the more experienced researchers.
4. The genealogy community in general is a welcoming, friendly place.
5. Last but not least, if you hear someone making a ridiculous remark about age (young or old) – Speak Up! I did not have to yell or be mean to get my point across. I don’t know if she got it but there was definitely some acknowledgement from others at the table.
In closing, I learned a lot from Tom Jones at this seminar and look forward to learning a lot from Josh Taylor in the Spring. Hope to see you there!