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September 1, 2010

Is Genealogy a Hobby?

Lisa made an interesting comment in response to my post called It Boggles My Mind which is a blog post about how I find it incredible that there are people who are not the least bit interested in their family history.

Lisa disagreed with me when I referred to genealogy as a hobby.

"I disagree on one thing you said though, this is NOT a hobby. It is much more than that. I call it my life's work. We are writing and preserving history and without the genealogists of today, much will be lost tomorrow. "

Lisa has a good point. I agree that we are writing and preserving history (as well as finding facts). I agree that genealogy is important.

But is it indeed a hobby? Or something more ... what else can we call this activity we engage in? 

Let's first look at the actual definition of the word HOBBY

A hobby is defined as an activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure.

* I pursue genealogy in my spare time.

* I research my family tree for pleasure, not profit.

* I am passionate, perhaps even obsessed about my ancestors and genealogy.

* Research into my Genealogy is not my full-time job.

It seems to me then that my pursuit of genealogy fits the definition of a hobby.

I don't believe that applying the term "hobby" is necessarily negative. I don't think that calling an activity a hobby is demeaning. The common pre-conception may be that a hobby is little more than an entertaining distraction from life, but that's not an accurate definition.

As far as I'm concerned, if you don't pursue genealogy as a full time "JOB" which pays your bills, then it's a hobby. It can be a passionate, all-consuming hobby. It can be, as Lisa says, your life's work. You can be 100% committed to finding and preserving your family history. But if you are paying your bills by working at some occupation other than genealogist, you are engaging in a hobby.

I'm interested in what others think. Do you have a good word for what we avid genealogists engage in? I'm open to suggestions for a term other than "hobby" but until I hear one that fits, I'm still going to say that I have a hobby I love, called genealogy. It's my passion, it's all-consuming, and I think it's incredibly important to find and document my ancestral trail, but in the end it's my hobby.


Unknown said...

For most of us, hobby it is. Unlike grandma's button collecting, its artifacts potentially have special value for others. On second thought, that button collection gave me hours of fun as a child, so add it to the "special value" category as well.

Sadie Morgan said...

I define it as a hobby for myself. The thing I go by is the fact that, in spite of my obsession, I still have to put research on the back burner for making a living and raising children - much more than I would wish to do.

Aylarja said...

In my opinion, genealogy research is a hobby for most who pursue it. For some, their level of interest may hover around that of curiosity; for others, it may be more of a passion or even, possibly, an obsession. But I think "hobby" is an appropriate word to use.

It is not surprising to me that many family members have no interest in genealogy as a hobby because, as has been said, there is work involved that simply does not appeal to many people. But that is a separate matter from those who have no interest in their ancestry and the human interactions that have resulted in their presence in this world. For some, there may be wounds from hurtful relationships that obstruct any potential for interest in their family's past; for others, it may be a narrow perspective on life that attributes little value to people long-past. For yet others, it may be that their hobbies and passions (which may be of no interest to me) consume them in a way that leaves little room for the passion that motivates me.

While it is disappointing to me to realize that few others in my family share my distinct interest in family history, I would quickly lose my passion if I required theirs to fuel my own. For many, a hobby in genealogy will be a solitary pursuit. But that is one of the great marvels of genealogy in the age of the Internet: we discover others who share our passion.

Aylarja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Don't knock button collecting. There are people who make a living buying and selling buttons. Check out the National Button Society.

DinkyJenny said...

I agree with you, in that i do my genealogy as a hobby, i also agree with lisa in that its a lifes work!

I have been doing mine on and off for about the last 15 years, currently i am helping other people do theres, unpaid, in a weekly group, but to me, its still a hobby.

Now i would love for someone to offer me a job doing this, as the skills i would learn researching other family trees would be applied to my own 'in my own time'. I find it so engrossing, interactive, and sometimes very time consuming.

Now my daughter isnt the slightest bit interested, in what i am doing, so i am hoping in the future, some family further down the line will appreciate the work i have done and the work of other members in my tree. For without us, our past would be forgotten!

Long live our hobby as a genealogist!!!

GeneBugGrams said...

I have always called my genealogy research my avocation.
noun - An activity taken up in addition to one's regular work or profession, usually for enjoyment; a hobby.

Flowers said...

Even my husband and I disagree on this one. He inherited all the photos, letters and feels it is his duty to be archivist, not miss a thing (he'll be finished sometime next century); to me its fun, interesting, and I'll do it sometimes along with my other hobbies!

Greta Koehl said...

Ditto what GeneBugGrams said. I think of genealogy as my avocation (= hobby) and languages as my vocation. I love them both, but prefer to earn my living at languages.

Jackie said...

Many years I played with computers as a hobby. Think Commodore 64. I later turned that into a 30 year career that supported me and my family quite well. Just because it's currently a hobby, doesn't mean it can't be a profession. I'm currently working on turning my genealogy hobby into a second profession and plan to eventually start by own genealogy research business. Then it won't be a hobby.

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

LOL! I probably should have worded my original comment as "Genealogy is not JUST a hobby", that would have been more precise to my way of thinking. I said it the way I did because I am often made to feel guilty for spending so much time on something that I don't make money at. The older I get the more concern I have over our family stories and photos being lost forever. I live in Florida, we have hurricanes and tornadoes, floods, fire....and I have a vivid imagination! And of course I've been through all of the above catastrophes to some extent at one time or another in my life. So, to me, this is way more important than a simple hobby. Now, if we could come up with something to call it that raised it to another level just ABOVE "Hobby", I could be happy with that!

Unknown said...

In my presentation, the Seven Stages of Genealogy Growth, I discuss how an individual progresses from hobbyist to highly educated and effective professional researcher. The very first level is familiar to all -- Collector. While this is certainly germain to hobbies, it is also essential to serious researchers.

IOW, I agree with you AND Lisa. For me, it is a matter of what level the individual has attained.

Happy Dae·

Deb said...

I do not use the word hobby, personally. That suggests to me an activity that brings pleasure to oneself - but genealogy, at least the kind I do, while not making money (in fact, it TAKES money), is much more. I am preserving documents, letters, photos, etc. by collecting things from relatives and archivally scanning and storing all the materials, as well as photographing objects, writing their history, and packing in archival materials. I retouch/restore damage to the old family photo scans and get prints made at a photo lab. Everything is getting documented in spreadsheets. These will be shared and enjoyed by unknown numbers of family members.

I would call what I do archiving & preservation.

And just an observation about it being a solitary activity - I have met many "new" cousins through my work, and have been able to teach people how to archivally digitize and store their keepsakes. I hope to find work digitizing and preserving people's collections when I have time to create some portfolios, which would be paid work but still archiving & preservation.

The Grandmother Here said...

I've been struggling for the right word. "Hobby" just isn't it -- it's more than that. The closest I can think of is "Sacred Trust."

familyblogger said...

I believe that for most people genealogy begins as a hobby, but as you begin delving into your family and their history, it becomes an obsession.

familyblogger said...

I believe that most people begin researching their family and history as a hobby, but with time, it becomes an obsession.

Untangled Family Roots said...

I agree that genealogy for most is a hobby, but just like any hobby; there are those that take there hobby very very very seriously and God forbid anyone do anything wrong in that hobby.

For me it did start out as a hobby, but I had such a passion for it that I began helping others and found many asking me to help them. I soon began to pursue it as a profession. I'm still working on my certification, but I am also making a little "play" money at it. At least I make enough to keep fueling the funds for my passion.

It is however one of those hobbies that one should take at least somewhat seriously. I'm not nearly as picky as some, but I do think that it's important that we all take this hobby seriously enough to source our finding and realize how what we find can impact others, and may be taken as fact by those who don't know any better.

I do love the term avocation. I think that fits very well, but beside making play money for my hobby, I still have to work a full time job to pay the bills, it's the unfortunate reality of a genealogist.

Anonymous said...

Lately I've been feeling it is more of an "addiction" than anything else....especially since I search for new dates and names and newspaper articles and census records and death certificates without fully recording and documenting the ones I've found. It's the rush of the new discovery that I'm seeking.

And as with most addicts, I'll sign myself as anonymous on this post.