UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Archivists’ outlook on service to genealogists in selected Canadian provincial archives Edwards, Rhianna Helen


A long-standing antipathy towards genealogists on the part of archivists is suggested by a study of the archival literature. However, there is evidence in the literature of the past decade to indicate that many archivists are reassessing their position vis a vis genealogists. There appears to be several causes. Social historians and other professionals also acknowledge that genealogical endeavours are helpful to their own purposes. Genealogists themselves recognize that their qualifications and standards must be improved in order for them to command respect. Archivists now recognize the lobbying power that can be exercised by this large user constituency. The literature suggests that all these influences are leading archivists to accept the principle that genealogy and genealogists should receive service and respect that is equal to that afforded academic and other researchers. Interviews with seven archivists at three Canadian provincial archives were conducted. They suggest that different archivists hold different attitudes towards genealogists. One interviewee was clearly antipathetic, but three were impartial and three were frustrated and discouraged, not with genealogists per se, but with the problems inherent in putting the principle of equality into practice. Regardless of the attitude held, each interviewee believed that an improvement in methods of accommodating genealogists would not only aid the genealogist, but would also provide some relief from the pressures of serving this large and varied user constituency. But does such accommodation through adjustments in the functions of appraisal and acquisition, arrangement and description, reference and access, and public programming undermine archival theory? In general, it was found that sound appraisal practices are compromised by an approach driven by the needs of the user; however, genealogical research required no adjustment of arrangement and description practices following the principles of provenance and original order. It was also found that the functions of reference and access, and public programming could meet the needs and approaches of genealogists without jeopardizing the physical and intellectual aspects of the records.

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