Advocating for Diversity

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of guest posts highlighting the ways in which intergenerational connections have inspired young genealogists. To learn more about how the NextGen Genealogy Network encourages young genealogists to build connections between all generations, see the NextGen Connection Challenge.

For some, joining a new community can be exhilarating – what could be more thrilling than an opportunity to interact and make new connections? For others, this question would only be uttered with heaps of sarcasm – could there be anything worse than interacting with strangers and making small talk? I happen to fall somewhere in between these two extremes – an introverted genealogist, who also enjoys learning from and teaching others. As a result, my first endeavor to join a genealogical society began with a mix of reluctance and anticipation.

My first meeting with the local genealogical society took place at the city library. The group was small and unassuming, and I was pleased (though not surprised) to discover that I was the youngest attendee. Because I have always held a deep reverence for my elders, and particularly enjoy listening to their recounts of the past, it was a reassuring setting. At the close of the meeting, I was asked to join the board. The invitation was a surprise, and a kind gesture that immediately made me feel welcome. In short, day one with my new community was a success.

Fast-forward 3 years. After many more meetings, a few frustrations, and a great deal of learning and growth: I have learned how better to collaborate with members of a different generation, have proposed technological solutions to problems (some met with excitement and others with bewilderment), and have learned research tips from experienced researchers.  It has been a fulfilling journey. However, I have also discovered what I feel is missing from my small genealogical community: diversity. Though I have learned to appreciate society members’ form of interacting and their passion for sharing family stories, I have also realized that our group is very homogeneous – a circumstance that inevitably moderates the depth and richness of our interactions.

At one point, I considered looking elsewhere for this diversity. I thought my time would be better spent working with a group already successful in diversifying its membership. And then I thought better of it – as a valued member of my society, I have an opportunity to propose a new direction for accomplishing our mission. I can leverage my newfound friendships to cultivate collaboration and innovation within and across generations. It’s an exciting prospect.

And with the lessons I have learned over the past 3 years, I believe I will be successful. I am looking forward to the challenge – and the inevitable outcome of increased diversity (of people and of thought) in our little society. Perhaps even this introvert can make a difference!

Lisa Medina is a devoted family historian with experience researching American and Mexican genealogy. She lovingly shares much of this research with her family – a husband of 8 years and a captivated 5-month old son. When not researching, Lisa is a busy University Registrar. She is also currently a Board member of the Escondido Genealogical Society.