New tag: Resistance Genealogy

–7 votes
I have created a new tag, Resistance_Genealogy, for G2G discussions. What do you think of creating a category or project related to mobilizing genealogy for political effect?
in Policy and Style by Justin Cascio G2G5 (5.9k points)
reshown by Jillaine Smith
Most countries have one person leading them. The USA would be the only one that this would contribute to. As for me I would rather not give political affiliation for my family or myself.

P.S. I would close and remove this question before it gets to far out of hand. Just a suggestion.
I've reshown this post so that Abby's answer would not lose context. I've also removed the flags.  They've been seen and responded to. No need to reflag.  Thanks.

Why does this entire conversation remind of a Family Guy episode?

Ity sounds like the only "advantages" of resistance genealogy are already covered in the notables project. So that only leaves the political backlash part as justification for the category.
No, I would rather leave this up so anyone else who searches on resistance genealogy in the G2G find out how people feel about it. No need for a second Wikitreer to wander into the same minefield of resistance to resistance in the name of not being political. Genealogists who realize their work is already inherently political and find that aspect of the work exciting and motivating, will be able to find the one or two of us who are already on Wikitree, doing the work. Collaboration is at the heart of Wikitree, and I'm looking for collaborators. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Do you mean that it is ok to break the Honor Code Pledge many of us have made?  I think it is quite the wrong sort of precedence!  

Basically, reality has no place in genealogy--that's the summation of the comments.
Yes, J., if it includes living individuals. The reality of the dead is fine, as long as it's sourced.

13 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer

From the discussion so far, it seems that what is being discussed as "resistance genealogy" is functionally a branch of "opposition research" -- see Wikipedia:

Making the definition more generic, it could be defined as "trying to find something out in order to engage in an argument."  In concempotary politics one discovered that Candidate A did something 30 years ago that some voters would find disgusting, and one gleefully publishes that.  We can't do that on Wikitree because we don't do anything with living people;  however, we might research the Great-grandfather of Candidate B in order to find something to embarass Candidate B.  

This really gets dicey because doing all the research we can on the great-grandfather of anybody is exactly what we do.  And we may discover that said grandfather had an affair or a heretofore unknown child.  That's all part of good genealogical research.  But it feels like doing that research for the purpose of uncovering something salacious, and with the intention of using it to embarass someone, violates the Honor Code.  It certainly would be disruptive and non-collaborative.  

Genealogy unites people who otherwise might not be willing to talk to each other, and that is a value you'll notice people esteem highly here.  I think the use of the word "political" immediately threatens that sense of "at least here we can set our differences aside and simply do research."  So from these perspectives, it seems that the concept of "resistance genealogy" becomes "genealogy for a partisan and divisive purpose" and that is profoundly threatening to the values many on this board hold dear.

A couple of years ago I heard a genealogy presentation that provided some potentially controversial relationships of a particular notable.  This was quite interesting to me.  I could have posted in G2G (or on Facebook!) "Wow, guess what I heard about so and so!"  What I did was try to do all the research I could to see if the presentation (which, when you poked it a bit, really lacked sources) could be documented.  The result was that I added several fairly documented profiles to WikiTree, but I could not find a connection between them and the notable person.  If the presentation really is accurate, somebody can build on the research I did, but nothing will come out unless it's documented.  And you'll notice I'm carefully obscuring the identities and the allegations here, there's no point in spreading what might be false.  But that is a temptation that "opposition research" often falls prey to.

Now, I've just admitted that I too can be motivated in my research by the possibility of discovering something controversial or salacious.  I think that's human nature.  But to take what really is a weakness and turning it into an organizing principle where a primary motivation of what we do is "muckraking" would be to radically change what we're about.

by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (449k points)
selected by Steven Tibbetts
+33 votes
I'm not a fan of this, since we are not here for political purposes. It's not that I'm against using genealogy this way, though I am not motivated to do so myself. I just don't think it's a good thing here at WikiTree.
by Natalie Trott G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+51 votes
WikiTree's Honor Code does not support this. We are not here for politics-we're here for family. How would doing this aid and support our global family tree goal?
by Abby Glann G2G6 Pilot (712k points)
The work of resistance genealogy would tend to connect the family trees of notable people. This is well within the aims of Wikitree. No one asks you why you work on the trees that you do, or whether those reasons could be described as political. Wikitree is an inclusive place, in that regard. But just as with other areas of interest, whether it's Mayflower descendants or black sheep, those of us who are here for similar reasons want to find one another, for support and assistance in our mutual aims. Isn't that what Wikitree is about?
If you're looking for a place where political activists can progress their  "mutual aims", this is not it!

A recent g2g post which was critical of Donald Trump started an instant furore of differing opinions amongst  Wikitreers that could be heard here in Australia.

Genealogy is about history, not about mobilizing activists.
What Peter said!

The term "resistance genealogy" is politically motivated and you cannot convince me otherwise. It's a brand-new term and was coined to further a political cause. I'm sure some WT members might have a motivation other than researching their own family history. Whatever motivation any of us has, as long as what we present here fits within the honor code, it's fine.

Some WT users may not feel comfortable seeing G2G posts tagged this way. They may have opposing views and not wish to see this political movement happening here at our friendly site. Others may agree with the movement, but find WT to be a safe place where they can escape the craziness of the world for awhile. (I fall in this group. I would rather leave politics and political opinions at the door.)

Above that, you are talking about living individuals with unlisted profiles. Your "tag" would end up being a category that you would have to apply to all of the unlisted's ancestors in order to create the crumbs to lead back to an unlisted profile, which simply has a surname and number. This seems ineffective, as well as being out of line with our honor code.

I think the difference is that:

  • Resistance Genealogy is specifically political.
  • Other projects are focused on who our ancestors were (e.g. criminals, Mayflower passengers, cloth weavers), but resistance genealogy is more about who the descendants are. And because these are (usually) living people, notable living people making headlines; these folks would be Unlisted on WikiTree anyway.

Like others, I don't have a problem with RG in principle, but I don't think it jives with the spirit of WikiTree's mission and honor code. WikiTree is about using family history to bring families together, not as a weapon to divide them.

While I was okay with this at first, as a way to keep track of ancestor profiles mentioned, I feel it's best we leave the politics to Twitter.
I agree, Aaron. It's already in all forms of media, so why can't we leave it out of WT? I need that escape myself.
In my opinion 'Resistance' genealogy is as precarious as 'Military' genealogy, something that WikiTree seems to glorify with it top-heavy categorisation of the military. In Holland we are proud of our resistance fighters in the 2nd WW. As would the French be of their partisans. One cannot denounce the one and allow the other. It has nothing for me to do with WikiTree honor or collaborative spirit. If it was not for the resistance of Nelson Mandela (just one example) …
I agree Philip, but it seems this "resistance genealogy" business is something completely different (treading cautiously here, as an Non-American I probably have nothing to say).
Indeed. There is a saying that one cannot see the spot one is standing on; one can only infer it. Sometimes my brain aches from WikiTree's business of categorizing in general - Black Sheep ok. Military ok. Resistance no-no, not ok. Oh the humanity …

Though I have to agree wholly with the stance that ''[…]creating a category or project related to mobilizing genealogy for political effect […]" is not genealogy or should not be genealogy's main concern, or a WikiTree goal in any form. I just came back from Berlin. A short stay of just a few days and one gets a very painful reminder of where such "strives" for political aims have led to.

+25 votes
I can see it leading to many conflict situations between Wikitreers which would not be healthy for the collaborative spirit of the community.
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (659k points)
+23 votes
I vote no.
by Robert Hvitfeldt G2G6 Pilot (244k points)
+25 votes

I got attacked for trying to find out if Elizabeth Warren had ANY Native American blood and was mistaken on being Cherokee. Now you want to deliberately go after people politically????

 Just Say NO!!!!!

I looked up "Resistance Genealogy" and it was specifically designed to target politicians that were against ILLEGAL immigration and show that they were descended from LEGAL immigrants to shame them into allowing ALL forms of immigration but specifically chain immigration.

I fail to see how allowing something designed specifically for political purposes benefits WikiTree but I can think of several reasons why it would do harm. If you want to note this in their Bio then feels free but we don't need categories to target this.

(added last 2 paragraphs after Isabelle commented)

by Steven Tibbetts G2G6 Pilot (405k points)
edited by Steven Tibbetts
Hah! You really did get a backlash on that.
I’d love to see the link on that one,

I re-read that thread and don't see a lot of attacks.  In fact it was pretty even handed.  But perhaps people PMed you critical comments. 

I have avoided commenting so far as this seems purely a US question, but *genealogical* discussions can become heated often enough, as it is. No need to add a political agenda to the mix IMO. (saying this after seeing PMs going ballistic about comments on profiles that I thought innocuous enough - cultural differences I guess).
+23 votes

Justin, you may feel you have good reason for a catagory or project like that, but allow me please to tell you why I am on WikiTree. I get (and sometimes give) assistance from folks who want to help on on WikiTree irregardless of what project of which I may be a member. The tags on posts here may help others to focus their efforts, but I know several people on G2G who read every post, just in case they can help. (Me.)

This is a wonderful community! The best! And I would really hate see anything that might divide us in any way. I just can’t see how a project related to “resistance” would be something that would bring us together more. 

This is a very special place for me. The give and take here is incomparable. I know of no other genealogy site like WikiTree. I have learned more in the past couple of months I’ve been a member than I have the last many years, just by reading posts and asking questions. The quality of research is of the highest level for most folks who care to “get it right.”  Anything that would detract from that would not be in the spirit of WikiTree.

With the highest respect, Justin, for your research on our One Tree, I must decline to support a catagory or project focusing on “resistance.”

Kindest regards,


Edit: fixed typo. OCD!

by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.7m points)
edited by Pip Sheppard
Good points Pip.
There's no reason to believe that resistance genealogy as a motivation for research, would detract from any of the qualities of Wikitree that you value. I also help others, enjoy research, and appreciate how unique Wikitree is as a tool and a community for genealogists.

With those concerns out of the way, and since you help people in all areas, and since you are not required to be active in any particular way by this new tag, I hope that you have no further objections.
But Justin, as others have pointed out, such a template or category would be placed on living persons' profiles, and those are now unlisted. So even if this wasn't getting the negative response, even if it weren't "political," it wouldn't work because of the unlisted profiles.
That isn't necessarily true. Living, but notable people can have listed profiles on Wikitree. It also preserves the categorization for the future, when they are no longer living.

Tags are useful for connecting genealogists.

There are other categories that already exist that are probably considered unnecessary by at least a few WT users who simply have no use for them. Other categories are overtly or covertly political, and again, if that's not your interest, no one makes you go back and tell us if your ancestors were Tories or what. It's up to editors to decide what parts of the story to tell. If you don't realize that's a political power, well, now you do.

Just so noboby misunderstands:"Living, but notable people can have listed profiles on Wikitree." No, they can't, not since the end of May 2018, unless they have a WikiTree account. There may be a few of those, though I don't know who they might be.

Even Queen Elizabeth has an unlisted profile, and she is probably one of the most famous notable persons alive. My mom, quite unknown, but notable in my eyes,  also has an unlisted profile. :-)

+15 votes
Nope, sorry, been dealing with someone who has a bee in his bonnet about certain ancestors of mine, and his motivation is quite obviously political.  I don't care if he's on the side of the underdogs or not, this is NOT the place for it.  There's enough crazyness out there, let our ancestors at least have done with it.  They already went through their own forms.
by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (634k points)
+6 votes
Wow I was excited when I clicked in here - honoring our ancestors that initiated change is an awesome idea - then I hit instant negativity and assumtion that this woud be a current event war and all that - wow I am surprized and kinda upset - have to go to work
by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Pilot (162k points)
hmm, his point is to ''mobilize genealogy for political effect.''  Not hardly about our ancestors that I wouldn't think.  Sounds like modern-day stuff to me.  Our ancestors who were movers and shakers are already covered in Notables categories, don't need this made-up ''resistance genealogy'' added to them.
Bashing somebody politically, through their ancestors or in any comments, goes against the Honor Code (being courteous to everybody). People who do so are subject to a Member Incident Report and being banned/blocked for repeat offenses. This is the online equivalent of bullying or intimidating others.

Bob Fields

Notables Project Leader
I also have trouble understanding the point . If we dig enough, we probably all have a few ancestors who would turn in their graves if they knew our opinions.
OHHH in my morning rush I misread this - I thought it was about those who had brought about change by their resistance - changed things for the better by their actions and inspired others to do the same - which maybe I had on my mind as something ... had been thinking of trying to do some wikitree profiles for non relative folks who meant a lot to me - one was a political activist
Bob - who is bashing anyone?
Philip - I have not seen a top heavy military thing here at all, where have I been?  I have a couple people I was trying to honor their service and I really had to figure it out myself for the most part - did have some help with one sticker - and so far just a few of my profiles of those that were in the military have I recognized as such -
yes I am sorry I had it all wrong - I thought is was about those who changed things - Martin Luther King, Ghandi and Mother Theresa and that sort of people from long ago - and I had a friend who died some time ago I would add to such a group of those who fought for positive change - Utah Phillips was a labor activist - met him once too - he ought to be in Notables _ I am sure you can all think of those type of people - did not know about this new thing at all of I would not have chimed in - no Wikitree is not the platform for that sort of thing at all - but the other would be ok I bet
There is the Activits & Reformers project. People like MLK of Gandhi would fit there, and of course it's OK to discuss their genealogy.

Military & War is a big project. Just ask if you have someone you wish to honor - they are very helpful.
+19 votes
Justin, I think you raise an important topic, which needs to be thought through.  

Whatever the term "resistance genealogy" is being made to mean at this point in time, the word "resistance" suggests that someone is being oppressed and we are taking up on behalf of the oppressed.  Many of us would consider that a fine thing to do.  But where are the oppressed in this case?  Am I or fellow genealogists among the oppressed?  We could be, but I'm not sure there's much a genealogy site could do for us.  I can create a free-space page entitled "Jack Day's Advocacy on Behalf of Himself and Other Oppressed People" -- but who would read it?  It doesn't sound very genealogical, so it's a bad match with this particular audience.

So perhaps the oppressed are other people.  We actually already have projects supporting genealogy for and about genealogy for groups of people who have traditionally experienced oppression.  That could be considered "resistance genealogy."  But genealogy tends to unite people of different persuasions in a common cause, while a label like "resistance genealogy" would tend to divide people.  The challenge of genealogy for people with African-American heritage is specifically a challenge related to the oppression their ancestors faced, oppression in terms of deliberate destruction of family cohesion which, as an attack on the family, was also automatically an attack on that family's genealogy.  But on this site, it's a challenge of finding records where they exist and putting together connections which have almost become lost, and it calls for people who enjoy detective work and whether they think they are fighting oppression or just enjoying discovery doesn't really matter!  .  

Or perhaps the oppressed is someone, now dead -- we can't deal with living people given privacy restrictions -- whose ideas were unpopular.  One thing genealogy can do is give such people a voice, and to an extent that's a legitimate function of every good profile.  Imagine doing a profile for Martin Luther and covering only who his parents and spouse were and not mentioning his ideas or his impact!  So writing profiles to give people a voice, one is fighting oppression.  But labelling that as "resistance genealogy" could actually retard the process, because it then suggests that if I am supporting giving the person a voice, I am agreeing with him.

A couple of years ago I discovered that the profile for Mao Zedung, the first and primary leader of the Peoples' Republic of China, was orphaned, and I adopted it.  I'm all for giving him a voice, and for being able to track and connect his family in our one Family Tree.  But as a 9-year old I was a refugee from his country, and if giving him a voice meant that I had to agree with him, he'd be orphaned again in seconds!  

So in summary, when you pry apart the concept of "resistance genealogy" there are some things there worth pursuing.  But the best of those things are things we already pursue on WikiTree without the label, and using the label might actually make it harder to do the very good that you would like to see done!
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (449k points)
Beautifully stated, Jack.
Yes, I agree. Well said.
Resistance Genealogy is researching into the past of your political opponents looking for immigrants to the US so you can embarrass them into allowing Illegal Immigrants to stay. This is NOT a worthwhile goal for WikiTree and the work itself is already being done in Noteables.
I'd be interested in seeing any studies that show that finding things in one's ancestral past that might embarrass a political opponent is an EFFECTIVE strategy in today's world!  Without at all getting into who the good guys and the bad guys are, my hunch is that it's a very ineffective strategy and whether one's primary motivation is genealogy or politics, trying to do that would be a waste of time.

1000 years ago, all my ancestors that I know of were thugs, killers, land-stealers, oppressors of the poor, and probably rapists.  Otherwise known as aristocracy.  It doesn't embarrass me at all, that's what it took to be aristocracy of one sort or another.  However, you won't catch me spending much time pining for the "good ole days".
I agree completely, Jack - and the opposite is also true. I'm sure we all have one or two ancestors who would be absolutely shocked by our opinions and beliefs.
+4 votes
Maybe I've been reading the wrong blogs and posts but my understanding of Resistance Genealogy is to show that we are all part of the same human family, that none are higher and none are lower.  Unless you are a native american or perhaps a descendant of slaves brought to this country, we are all immigrants and should relate to each other as such.

I did not see any inherently political motivation in that.  Was I wrong?
by Judy Wardlow G2G6 Mach 2 (20.7k points)

I did not see any inherently political motivation in that.  Was I wrong?

Jennifer Mendelsohn is the creator of the Resistance Genealogy movement, and the movement (her work and motive), was to specifically call out public figures, including lawmakers and other politicians, who oppose some of the common forms of immigration. Prominent targets are (and have been) political figures or political commentators, such as Stephen Miller and Tomi Lahren.

To answer your question would be to engage in exactly the political debate we shouldn't have here.
I'm sorry you feel that way.  It was certainly not my intent.
+15 votes
I had to drop out of social media sites like Face Book because they've become too political.    I would be heart broken to have to retreat from WikiTree too!
by Peggy McReynolds G2G6 Pilot (467k points)
+14 votes
When I go back in time looking at my ancestors and that of my husband I find they most likely fought each other... does that mean by some political thought that I was wrong in falling in love with him and marrying him?  I think not.  The beauty of studying our genealogies is that all families will find they have both saints and sinners.  It is the choices we make that determine who we are not the genes we inherit.  This smacks of the thinking that led to the idea that some cultures or races or sexes are superior to others and we know that is flat out not the case.  Each of us has the potential to rise above adversity and the things life hands us.  

From where I stand the concept of Resistance Genealogy is tainted and a poison fruit that denies the humanity of each of us.  We can disagree on any topic and still value each other.  That is Inclusive Genealogy and should be what we strive for.  After all, the basic idea of a One World Tree, contains the concept that we are all related so we all have the very people in our line that Resistance Genealogy is looking to shun...
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (810k points)
That's lovely, Laura!
I agree, Laura. We can't be a unifying "One World Tree" and become political at the same time.

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