Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quiz: What Does Sex, the IRS and Bristol Palin Have to Do With Genealogy?

It's All Adam & Eve's Fault!
When it comes down to basics, genealogy is all about sex.  

Not just any old garden-variety, backseat-of- Dad’s-Chevy sex, but that highly successful reproductive sex that results in brand-new human people being born.  

Generally, that’s how our ancestors got their descendants.  

Society likes to regulate sex, deciding who can have it, with whom, when and under what circumstances.  Religion also likes to get into the act, so to speak. 

According to the logic, regulated sex makes for stable families, which in turn makes for stable societies.  Or at least that's how the story goes. 

 In case you hadn’t noticed, stable societies tend to have pretty stable political systems.  And stable political systems are much, much easier for political elites to control than political systems that are, well, unstable.  

Still, it all comes down to sex.

Good, highly regulated sex – at least the kind that society and religion have determined is “good” – gets a big thumbs up from our modern post-industrial societies.  Bad sex – the kind that is unregulated - well, that’s a horse of a different color.  

Which is why the Candie’s Foundation hired Bristol Palin way back in 2009.

You may vaguely remember Bristol Palin.  She’s Sarah What’s Her Name’s oldest daughter.  She and her high-school friend Levi had highly productive sex together and produced a cute little kid named Tripp.  They’re not married and have no current intention of doing the marriage thing.  Neither Bristol nor Levi have finished high school.

In general, society says that this is not a “good thing.”

As far as society is concerned, the highly successful reproductive sex that Levi and Bristol had was “bad sex.”  Bad sex – the kind that results in unmarried teen pregnancy, for example – will, according to common societal wisdom – have drastically negative consequences for its participants.  

 Just look at Bristol.

Bristol dropped out of high school.  Bristol is a “single mom.”  The current societal narrative would strongly suggest that Bristol’s life is ruined, both socially and economically.

Well, maybe not so much.

Bristol landed one of those “do as I say, not as I did” jobs with the Candie’s Foundation, whose purpose, according to their IRS 990 form,  is “To educate America’s youth about the devastating consequences of teen pregnancy.”  

Bristol’s own “devastating consequences” of her unplanned teen pregnancy are pretty interesting.  According to the Candie’s Foundation’s 990 form (Schedule O, page 27), Bristol – who was born in 1990 - made a cool $262,500 to preach the message of the devastating consequences of teen pregnancy in series of TV commercials for the foundation.

Apparently, the Foundation couldn’t find any other teen-aged single mom in the United States who could successfully convey that message for any amount of money less that that somewhat north of a quarter million dollars amount.  Good thing Bristol was available and agreed to work for such a piddling amount.

I’m not making this up.  The information is easily available via Guidestar.  Here’s the relevant section from the Candie’s Foundation 990 form:

So, what or who is Guidestar, you ask?  Guidestar is an organization that provides information about not-for-profit organizations. Here's the link to the Guidestar website.     Guidestar provides “one-stop-shopping” for all those 990 forms that the IRS requires to be filed annually by all not-for-profit organizations, including your favorite genealogical and historical societies, large and small.  

To peruse the actual forms, you’ll need to register, but there’s no charge to register for the “basic” level of information – i.e., to look at the publicly available IRS 990s.

What can you learn from an organization’s 990 form?  Well, for one thing, you can learn how much money they received from all sources in a given year.  And how much money they spent. And what they spent it on.  And how much they have in the bank. And who their 5 highest paid employees earning more than $100,000 are.  And how much those folks make.

Just to whet your appetite – Guidestar has a search engine where you can search for organizations by name.  If you enter “genealogy”, you’ll get 312 hits.  If you try “genealogical”, you’ll get 1,256 hits.  How about “historical”?   A whopping 24,612 hits.

These are the organizations that we all know and love.

Genealogists are by nature nosy.  That’s why we’re good at what we do.

With that “nosy” quality in mind, here’s the link to the Guidestar registration page.  

So, go ahead.  Go sign up and poke around. 

It’s free and you know you want to.

And, by the way, the “sex and Bristol Palin” thing was just the "bait" to get you to read about Guidestar, which you probably didn’t know much about until now.


  1. Hey. You're sneaky. I like it.

  2. Thanks! I learned years ago back in my bureaucrat days that"mystery, fear and fascination" messages can be great behavioral motivators.

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