Yes, genealogists and family historians with any level of experience or expertise enjoy meeting cousins and finding long-lost family members to help fill out branches on the family tree. Especially when they are also interested in genealogy and can shed light on an ancestor. But, searching for live people isn't the main purpose or objective in family history, is it? Aren't we looking backward, generation by generation, to figure out who and where we came from? Or am I alone in thinking that is why we are all in this obsessed hobby?
A quick look at a dictionary for definitions of the word genealogy:
- a record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person, family, group, etc.; a record or table of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or ancestors; a family tree.
- the study of family ancestries and histories; the study or investigation of ancestry and family histories.
- descent from an original form or progenitor; lineage; ancestry; direct descent from an ancestor; lineage or pedigree.
That has always been my view of genealogy. I do document the cousins and their children as I find them, but I don't go actively searching them in online resources. It is hard enough to find time (and money) to look for the dead ancestors, much less the thousands of live cousins spread around the world.
I started this thread tonight after receiving a new link submission from a site labeled as genealogy and described this way: "Find help for building your family tree and finding lost ancestors." However, it only had a search form and links that point to databases for finding living people, such as those I described in my first paragraph above. This isn't the first time I've received such link submissions. And it isn't the first time I've wondered about these types of sites. Why do the owners and/or visitors of these sites consider this genealogy? I worry that people who are new to genealogy will waste their time, money, and energy on sites like these before they learn where to really begin with their research. I worry that the descriptions on sites like this mislead people. It bothers me. I work hard to help people get pointed in the right directions in their research. I don't ever want to lead them astray with misleading links.
All that said, I do have a Finding People category on Cyndi's List where I link to individual phone books, people-finding services, etc. for those people who are looking for a living cousin. But that is only 191 links out of more than 260,000 total. And the links point to web sites that are all titled and labeled for what they are and what they do. None of them claim to be genealogy when they aren't.