At the 2017 FGS Conference, I was inspired by Judy Russell and her presentation entitled “Rainbows and Kaleidoscopes: Inclusion as a Society and Corporate Genealogical Standard.” Judy, The Legal Genealogist, a well-respected professional holding significant community status, was telling her own industry to become more inclusive of diversity. All our ancestors were not white, heterosexual, Christians that came to New England from Europe. It was past time for the genealogical profession to embrace diversity, developing more resources that would attract everyone to our endeavor. People of all cultures would feel included only when they found welcoming resources that spoke to their experiences.
As a gay, Latino, Californian, Judy’s message resonated profoundly. I left Pittsburgh that year ready to start something. I was full of ideas but what felt most at home was LGBTQ Genealogy. I wanted people to realize that not all their ancestors were straight. I wanted to provide a resource speaking to the Queer experience that helped genealogists recognize the rainbow flags in their own trees. I found further inspiration in the online writings of LGBTQ pioneers Thomas MacEntee, Michael J. Leclerc, and Kim Cotton. But there were scant genealogy sources that educated about my peoples’ experience.
Over the next months, I developed a two-hour presentation on LGBTQ Genealogy, which you now see serialized in this blog launched in August of 2019. Collecting books, websites, newspaper clippings, queer history, and drawing on my own travel history, marriage, becoming a father, and my personal genealogical frustrations, I crafted a visual lecture that I hoped was educational on the LGBTQ experience. Maureen Hanlon of the California Genealogical Society (CGS) agreed to schedule me to speak during Pride Month 2018. CGS has a strong commitment to inclusivity and welcomed the topic without hesitation.
My debut as a genealogical lecturer went well. Dvorah Lewis was in attendance and she invited me to repeat my talk at The Sutro Library, where she was a genealogy librarian. At that presentation in 2019, a group of Ancestry.com employees were in attendance. AQT (Ancestry Queers in Technology) is an internal group at Ancestry.com and they invited me to speak at their company later that year. In 2020, they invited to speak again.
What else happened in 2020
2020 has been a tumultuous year, to say the least. The televised murder of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have carried our society closer to recognizing long-standing racial inequalities. Though tremendous work is still needed to shift us to a state of equality, we have seen change. Baseball teams are changing their names. Terms like “whitelist” and “blacklist” are being re-thought. A Black/Asian woman was elected Vice-President of the USA by a historic number of votes.
The tide of social change is also lifting the recognition and inclusion of LGBTQ folk.
In October, Ancestry.com invited me to preview and comment on proposed changes to their platform. Their UX designers are hoping to have more inclusive relationships, non-familial relationships, and other welcoming changes advocated by AQT.
Cyndi’s List, the premium site for all things genealogical, now includes an LGBTQ+ category with 55 links and growing. Cyndi has directly linked to some SixGen blog posts and to the #LGBTQGenealogy hashtag. Please make your LGBTQ Genealogy link suggestions for listing on Cyndi’s site.
In July, Denys Allen invited me to Your Pennsylvania Ancestors podcast to speak on LGBTQ Genealogy.
In June, Christopher Padgett, President of the Kentucky Genealogical Society, invited me to be one of the speakers at their society’s annual conference, “Discovering Your Bluegrass Roots in Kentucky.” KGS members have viewed the August presentation over 200 times.
What happens next
In June 2021, I will be presenting LGBTQ Genealogy at the Oberlin African-American Genealogy & History Group and will be returning to talk at CGS.
Most excitingly, Theresa McVean is about to launch her company Ancestree Detectives, thoughtfully crafting a diverse and inclusive team. She’s invited me to join the charter group of genealogists to support LGBTQ genealogy.
Judy Russell inspired this journey. I thank the many allies that have bolstered the topic along. I’m happy to have increasing interest and recognition of our LGBTQ ancestors. Inclusion and Diversity is the way forward for a better future for all.
Good luck in all your endeavors, Stewart. I support you and your wonderful work of educating us.