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Skin Tone Means Research Skill?

By Robin Foster

I just had another great chat with my friend and Co-Admin, Jan Mitchell. We always come up with some really profound statements in our conversations. Most of it, the world is not ready to hear. LOL! She summed up this evening's topic with one statement that needs being said: "Skin tone means research skill." Let me say right away that does not apply in our Facebook Group, Genealogy! Just Ask!

Let me also say Jan and I are people of color, just different shades. She is a lighter color than me, but with us, skin tone does not have anything to do with skill set. We both think each other to be the best researchers alive on any topic and any locality. We were trained by the best, and we want to help the world find out who they are. That does not always meaning knowing the answer, but it DOES mean helping others to find the correct answer. There is room for everyone to assist and for everyone to access help. The resources are certainly out there.

We have created a place where we set the rules so "Skin tone means research skill?" does not affect us, but we are surprised that it still exists in the world of genealogy.

So what does that statement mean?

1. You walk into the room for help with your research, and you do not see anyone of your color to ask for help. You may have just cheated yourself out of expertise that may have been useful to you.

2. Someone approaches you to ask for help in getting started in their research, but you feel a little intimidated because they are a different color than you. You refer them to someone else that is their color. We all start the same way.

3. You are overlooked for certain conferences or workshops because you could not possibly know anything about researching people of a different color. Be persistent. Highlight your skill set and expertise on social media. Create a place to shine.

I like the way Jan explained it:

"My skin is white, so please no African American questions."


"Never ask an African America to help with white."

These are the real brick walls that we need to work together to overcome. It is felt by all colors. Jan can find ancestors of African Americans among Revolutionary War records as fast as I can find naturalization and citizenship records for researchers with immigrant ancestors that have not considered any record beyond the ship mainifest.

We have in the past and at present helped people where no one sees each other. While some records are significantly more helpful depending on if you are African American or not, color does not have anything to do with the skills a person has developed. You will not be able to determine that at one glance.

We are so happy that we work so well together in Genealogy! Just Ask! All colors help all colors.

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