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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 4

The Internet, and computers in general, have revolutionised genealogy research and opened it up to a much wider public.

This is A Good Thing.

Unfortunately, we've very quickly come to see these technological advances as the be-all-and-end-all of family history research.

This is A Bad Thing.

So, this New Year Resolution is to Remove the Internet blinkers and leave the mouse at home. Here are a few ideas for reaching out beyond your computer:

  • Contact Great Aunt Nellie: Get in touch with at least one relative who you've been meaning to contact for ages. Don't postpone this any further. If possible, make it a face-to-face interview. Prior to your meeting or telephone call, gather together some prompts (old photos, newspaper clippings, memorial cards etc) to help you guide your relative down memory lane. Copies of these items can be sent by post in advance.
  • Join a family or local history group: Whether you choose a national or local group, you're sure to extend your knowledge of resources and how best to access them, as well as making contact with others who can guide you, swop brickwall and success stories, offer tips, and keep you minded that genealogy is about people, not bytes and USBs.
  • Sign up for history lectures or classes: Learning about historical and political events will help put your ancestors' lives in perspective, while social history subjects will deepen your understanding of your ancestors' day to day lives. Your local family/local history group or library will have details of what's on offer.
  • Visit an unfamiliar place connected with an ancestor: Depending on distance, aim to make at least one visit to a church, school, house, street, town or other specific location that would have held memories for one of your ancestors. Explore it and talk to neighbours, officials and/or locals until it starts to feel familiar to you. If distance, resources or mobility make a visit impractical, resolve to read an area-specific book, or carry out research in some other way, to help you achieve that 'sense of place'. (Research carried out exclusively on Google Earth doesn't count!)