In the ‘old days’ of genealogy progress from one generation to the next was a slow business. Letters were written and daily hopes of a reply were dashed until finally a reply was received which either told you that nothing had been found or something had been found in a dusty old register, but it produced one answer along with five further questions. A day spent at a record office or Somerset House was dreamed of and planned weeks sometimes months in advance and was the highlight of the genealogist’s year.
How things have changed, now most of us sit at home, log onto Ancestry.co.uk or some such website and away we go. Ancestral information tumbles out of our printers, stores itself onto our hard drives and collates itself onto our family trees. Regular additions to the websites databases satisfies our hunger for more, but not for long. Give us the 1901 census and we want the 1911, give us the 1911 and we want the 1939 registration information. We want more and what’s more we want it NOW!
However having more and having it now isn’t always a good thing, How many of us have acquired screeds of printouts, discs of information and family trees of names, but not actually put the whole things together to tell the story of our ancestors? The reasons for doing genealogy are as varied as the people who indulge in it, but a common thread that runs through the reasons is that we want to find out the story of our ancestors. Who were they, what did they do, why did they do it and what was going on around them whilst they did whatever they were doing!
To achieve this the family historian has to take the time to look at what she/he has and to appraise, confirm and consolidate everything that she/he knows about that particular ancestor. So this year I have resolved to spend as much time consolidating my research as I spend on chasing more information and more ancestors. I shall work family by family and check that my information has been sourced, that my notes make sense, that all the different bits of information are pulled together and that the links from one generation to another are solid. I want to hand onto my descendants a family history that they are proud of and not one that is so shambolic that it gets consigned to the bonfire.
What about you, are you handing on to your children files and boxes of disconnected information or a genealogy that will stand the test of time?