I meet Mr. Ex-Mormon, and instantly realize: It’s not happening. This Guy.
And now I’m going to sit for an hour and have coffee and feign interest while introspecting about how shallow I don’t think I am, but apparently, really must be.
He starts off by anxiously asking if he can pay for my coffee, and is overly thrilled when I agree to this.
I take charge of the conversation. I inquire about his genealogy software project, because if it’s interesting, then I might learn something new – heck, maybe I’ll even like the guy.
I’m open-minded and flexible, I tell myself. It could happen.
He starts describing this database type thing he built with a friend. It’s not a research tool; rather, it’s a data validation tool: It helps the genealogist determine, when they have a data conflict, which sources should be accorded more weight – to decide what is correct. It sounds interesting, but since I’ve done a lot of work with records, I know there is a hierarchy of information: source documents that state relationships; cited histories; family tradition; unsourced family trees on the internets.
Genealogy on the Internets 101: There are a lot more unsourced, unverifiable family trees than there are solid, primary proofs.
The gist of his project was, as the user collects their data, they enter each fact in to the software along with the source.
Is there a source catalog? Or a ranking system – like you choose a source type, such as a will or probate record, and it automatically assigns a validity weighting? This is a great idea, I think.
No, he says. How it works is, the user enters a source, and the more times a fact is entered with any source, the more validity it is assumed to have.
Right, I think. I inquire further, and come at it from a couple of different directions.
And no matter which angle I look, all I can see is how fundamentally flawed the premise is: “The more people say it, the more true it must be.”
We pitched it to Ancestry, he says. Met the higher ups and did a big presentation.
How’d that go? I ask.
They weren’t impressed, he said.
Huh, I reply. So, tell me about your family. You have three kids.
Yes, he says. The kids seem to be older, and mostly forgettable. Except the youngest one: the one that got kicked out of school, and, with nothing to do except be home-schooled by the ex, got his fifteen year old girlfriend pregnant.
So, tell me about your work, I say. You’re on a consulting basis?
Yes, he says. Last year was kind of rough, I was kind of underemployed. But now I’m in a contract position, I’m pretty happy with it.
Will it become permanent? I ask. Would you want it to?
Oh no, he says. I don’t like to be a regular employee. It makes me very uneasy, with the direct deposit, taking money out of your paycheck for taxes and retirement plans and health care you might not even want.
I gotta go, I say. Time to pick up The Child.
He jumps up. Will you have dinner with me one evening?
Oh crap. I can’t do this. He’s really a very nice person but … there are too many buts.
Okay, I say. I just don’t have the heart to disappoint.
He lights up.