A Family Historian’s Dream

Like real people, Historians are all different.  They all have different areas of interest, different time periods and different things they like about history.  For me, I study Ancient History mainly (for which there is minimal evidence) and I specialise in Ancient Sparta (for which there is even less evidence); basically I like to not have a lot of evidence, as it demands more from the historian’s ability to think and to deduce.  I have met others who think this is their worst nightmare as there is no concrete evidence; preferring the idea that one event can have 1000 versions written by as many witnesses, and there are photos or drawings, and there’s a video and 3 diaries all discussing this same one event – my idea of boring.

When it comes to family history my position changes to wanting that of the second example, the reason for this is due to the micro-history nature of the study.  When you undertake research of the micro-historical variety, there is no such thing as too much information!  If we had it our way, any person wanting their family history looked at would be rather like my soon to be father-in-law.  One side of his family lived in the same region (the same village  in the majority of cases [*EDIT* apparantly Biggleswade is a town NOT a village I am told]) going back a fair few generations.  What makes it even better is he can list his family history going back to about 1900 off the top of his head . . . very useful!

This would allow an historian to, in a short amount of time, produce a lot of historical information very quickly from within the same regional archives.  It would also give him an idea of where in his family he might want further research done.  What is also interesting is in his case, and in similar cases, a local history book on the first World War was filled with all the family names he grew up with in the same village, leading to some amusing conversations about family businesses and pubs that are no longer there.  This not only helps him in his interest in his family, but also the historian who may have a wider interest in the village as a whole, or social dynamics during the war, for instance – a win, win situation.

My own Mum’s maternal side is similar in that there is a family area where every other pub is connected through marriage or children or something else, and the farms are connected.  This is what I’d describe as a family historian’s dream due to the simplicity of starting, after which it inevitably becomes more difficult as memories run out, myths being and family secrets are hidden from view . . . but then we are right back to what I enjoy most!!!

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