My Diversity Pledge for Genealogy

I recently had a conversation with a genealogy colleague whose subtle comment about a gay genealogist made me uncomfortable. I think they assumed that because I belong to a church that doesn’t perform gay marriages, I somehow disapprove of gays, but nothing could be further from the truth — and I politely made that clear. My gay loved ones are cherished beyond measure, and gays are protected people for reasons that are obvious to all by now. I believe that professional, credentialed genealogists should be held to the highest standard of sensitivity to diversity and inclusion in their speech about and treatment of protected peoples, especially in genealogy circles. 

Although I belong to both a church and a career field where I encounter these kinds of obstacles to diversity and inclusion (don’t we all? Certain generations/populations are still learning to embrace diversity), I believe that influencers must lead out, showing everyone a better way by example. This can lead to more inclusive policies and more peaceful, harmonious institutions (and world!) for everyone.

I studied the code of ethics for the APG, BCG, and ICAPGen, where I earned my Accredited Genealogist® credential. None of these institutions mentions diversity or inclusion in their code of ethics, though they do mention not disparaging other genealogists. However, the comment made by my colleague didn’t technically disparage; it was a subtle dig at the genealogist’s sexual orientation. The person was admired even as their orientation was shamed. See the dilemma here, when none of our codes of ethics has any wording about such language? I have since decided that it is up to me to draft my own, personal standard of diversity and inclusion, and post it where others can see.

Here is what I have come up with so far, and have posted to my web site’s homepage:

Diversity Pledge

The section on repositories stems from the nine years I spent living in the rural south. There are actually government-funded historical societies (think: public library branches) that only curate historical records of white people (in counties that are predominantly black!), so while I lived there, I sometimes turned down research cases for certain counties and referred them to local researchers who did not find patronizing such establishments as abhorrent as I did. Also, I am somewhat leery of lineage societies, but with greater nods to diversity, they too can win me over one day in the future.

Recognition for LGBTQIA individuals is another issue very dear to my heart. There is so much I could say about this, but my pledge sums it up for me. I will further add: all the present-day focus on DNA and bloodlines (ie: journal articles requiring that authors include DNA evidence along with the paper trail), needs to draft policies allowing for inclusiveness of those who have chosen to recognize their legal family instead of their biological and still qualify for publication in our literature. For example, an article tracing two maternal lines (ie, the child of two gay mothers who prefers to identify with her adoptive parents) who chooses not to submit her DNA evidence because she chooses to identify with her legal and not biological ancestry.  If she is gay and wants to research legal family as a matter of principle, or if her gay parents choose to identify with their legal and not biological parentage (due to adoption, foster care, disowning, etc), they should not be required to submit DNA results in order to publish, either. As long as the research is sound and performed according to standard, editors should not exclude such researchers from publication, simply because they choose not to furnish DNA evidence. Editorial exclusions based on DNA evidence requirements and antiquated gendered numbering systems in our publications might exclude LGBTQIA researchers from participating and publishing.

Because genealogists are renowned for researching and recording the life stories of little-known deceased individuals cast aside by other disciplines, we genealogists should be equally renowned for inclusiveness and embracing diversity among the living. We are, after all, the ancestors of tomorrow, and how we treat each other is making history.

Buona Festa Della Donna!

Today I’ve been sharing this picture on social media–a snap of one of my favorite ancestresses (I spend so much time studying these ladies; I sure hope I’m allowed to pick favorites!). She is the lovely lady on the right, a California girl, pictured sometime around 1911 while out on the town with a friend. Isn’t she a dapper doll? I adore her! She is a woman whose life I have spent the past couple of years studying, and I hope to spend many more until I come up with a very in-depth narrative of her story. Among her amazing life accomplishments, she served in the Navy during Word War I. Love it! 🙂


© Jenny Tonks 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Networking with Italian Americans


If you are an Italian American who wants to know more about your ancestors, you are not alone!

The POINT (Pursuing Our Italian Names Together) organization is the most comprehensive Italian American family history groups anywhere. Their local chapters, magazine, and e-mail digest are so helpful to members of the Italian American community. And don’t forget the POINT National Conference (where yours truly has been a presenter!), where you can mix and mingle from POINTers from around the world as you learn the latest and greatest research strategies for compiling your pedigree! 🙂

  • Introducing

    Jenny Tonks, M.A.


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