Monday 16 November 2020

Mission Creep in Family History

FHF Really Useful family history Show
Logo on FHF Really Useful Family History Show

Mission Creep : a gradual shift in objectives, when one sets out on a certain research path and gets  taken down another path into side issues.

I learnt this definition this weekend while watching the presentation by Helen Tovey of Family Tree magazine as part of the FHF Really Useful Family History online conference. 
"While on a mission to find out one thing, it's all too easy to get side-tracked when tracing our family histories. Helen Tovey takes a look at how to make a 10 minute task take 10 hours, and learns some salutary lessons along the way."
Helen outlined her research question and then showed the many paths taken as her research expanded to cover social circumstances well beyond her original enquiry. This was a delightful presentation with reflection along the way phrased as “What have I learnt?” 

Time to pause and reflect of what have I learnt from this conference. 
  1. This was just one of the many excellent value learning opportunities provided online for family historians. For just 7 pounds (about $12.70 Australian) 21 talks were provided, all available across 48 hours. I watched 10 of those talks, the ones that interested me most, so for less than $2 per talk I had access to experts in a variety of fields in English and Scottish research. One should choose wisely how to spend online time. I would not have attended 21 talks in a one day, or even a two day conference, so do not expect myself to attend every talk in the online environment. [edited; 24 hours later now and I see 23 videos available]
  2. Once again I was reminded of the importance of recording every detail from available records to save wasting time by having to revisit searches, no matter how trivial the information may appear at the time.
  3. The FamilySearch wiki is always worth a revisit as a wealth of information is continually added there. The England Genealogy page provides an excellent list of all the likely sources and record types one needs to exploit when investigating family history. Navigating the wiki is simplified by the use of a similar boxed layout on all pages with multiple access points provided throughout.
  4. It is always worth learning new skills and attending presentations from experts in fields other than one's own interest to look afresh at different ways of doing things. The Trade and Occupation Sources presented by David Cufley and the My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer by Ian Waller both provided a wealth of sources along with useful background information about terminology and occupations in the UK.
  5. A comprehensive coverage of a variety of ways to search the three Free UK Genealogy sites, Free BMD, FreeCen and FreeReg was concise and clearly presented by Graham Hart with an important reminder to always check the coverage of any database one may be searching.
  6. Not all organisations have yet managed to provide a seamless online experience by providing videos, chat and links to speakers' notes in a single platform. The push to sign up for yet another platform was less than optimal with a flurry of underlined words in emails that were not links. However I am thankful to the Family History Federation for providing the opportunity to attend this conference from Australia, an opportunity I would not have had, had the conference not been online. 
To return to Mission Creep, that gradual shift in objectives. I started researching family history in 2013 with the objective of finding and recording the stories of direct ancestors. Over time this has expanded to distant relatives on both sides of our families. Whilst the hunt for sources is half the joy of family history for those of us who enjoy the research process, it is the recording of those ancestors stories that should be my focus. 

Time to move back to that objective, know that many sources are out there, but stories need to be told to be preserved for future generations.

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