In recent times I get telephone calls and receive emails from people all over Australia asking what website they need to access to download their ‘family history’.
When I inquire a little deeper they tell me they have an important family birthday celebration coming up and the ‘family history’ would make a great gift.
Then I ask, why they thought it was on the Internet and so easily accessible? Yes, they were avid fans of ‘Who Do You Think You Are? And, yes, they had seen the advertisements on the television. They had tried the suggested site, but couldn’t find what they were looking for, so thought it must be on another website, and I would surely know which one.
Family historians who have been ‘doing their family history’ for some time know that it is not all about the collection of names and dates and entering them into a database to reveal their ‘family tree’.
I believe it is a lifetime journey, where the solving of little family puzzles, finding that elusive document, sharing ideas and stories with not only with like-minded people but if you are very blessed, people, who are actually connected to the same family.
Just as it takes time, work and dedication for a seed to grow into a mighty tree, it takes time, work and dedication of many people to ‘grow’ your ‘ family tree’.
Unfortunately, with the ‘fast and furious’ digital age people ‘want everything now’ with instant gratification. I know many get so disappointed, and some even angry that I can not give them the instant answers they were expecting. Sometimes I will suggest I meet them in the local library and we have a look on the Internet to see what we can find, and perhaps, even someone, who is researching the same family. If they are not even interested in doing that much, I have to tell them I cannot help.
I am very aware of how the information gets onto the Internet. It is the work of many, many thousands of people, who over time, have collected, indexed, scanned and data-entered massive amounts of information. Sometimes it is actually part of employment and people get paid to do it, but mostly it is usually many thousands of volunteers and family historians, who are ‘giving back’ to their family and community. The Internet is not some super software program, which has collected the information out of the ether and sorted it into files we can miraculously access, and download with our computers and smart-phones.
I am always hopeful that the large free, as well as subscription websites, might make that fact a little clearer to their subscribers and users.
Computers and the Digital Age make wonderful ‘slaves’ for researching our family history, but we always need to take care they do not become the ‘masters’. It is not all on the Internet.
I believe the most important part of family history is that everyone in the family should be encouraged to take part no matter how large or small their contribution, but everyone should also be acknowledged in some way for that contribution.
For example, take my last blog- Bell Ancestors, Going to America.
If I hadn’t made time on my busy trip to England to meet with Joan and Ivy,(as they are not on the same family line as myself);
If Ivy hadn’t been encouraged to bring out all those dozens of photographs;
If she hadn’t told us the story of those reputed uncles;
If I hadn’t followed up on the story, when I returned home;
If Glenda and Jim hadn’t been prepared to spend many hours on a difficult and a rather thankless task of combing through many, many records, (and by the way it wasn’t their branch of the family either);
If they hadn’t passed the information back to me;
If I hadn’t done anything with it or wasn’t prepared to spend the time collating and fitting it with other records I had collected over the years;
If I hadn’t contacted Joan and Ivy with the results, and if they hadn’t then contacted these cousins in the USA;
Then so much family history would have been lost again. What a terrible tragedy.
I have always been very grateful for the friendship, love, and dedication to service not only with my own family research but the ‘family history’ community at large. This is what I’m trying to pass onto the next generations. One way I have found is encouraging them all to take part at our family gatherings, as well as other appropriate activities.
Blogging also gives me the opportunity to acknowledge so many in the past, and also the present too.