On Friday we were treated to an informative lecture by John Robson about the role of Genealogy in Historical Research. He stated that many historians including himself had looked down on genealogy as a pursuit of amateur historians. This view however changed as he realised the importance of Genealogy whilst pursuing his interest in the men that sailed with Captain James Cook. Many of these Genealogy enthusiasts had strong self-taught research skills and have become very adapt at using digital tools for this research.
He gave us some links to some digital archives website that help people in researching their genealogy. Here is a list of the free websites:
John Robson also highly recommended this subscription based website http://www.ancestry.co.uk/
The Ancestry website offered a free trial so i decided I may as well as give it a go. First of all i searched for my Grandpa and it came up with his birth certificate as well the marriage certificate to my Grandma. I then managed to find out from that birth certificate the name of my Great Grandpa and that he lived and died in Auckland. However then i found a person with the exact same name who was a miner in Thames. It began to get very confusing but I can see how useful this website would be once you devote some time and research to it. It also reminded me of the advice John Robson gave us at the end of the lecture:
- Don’t assume everything is always correct
- Try to obtain verification from a second or even third source.
- Be patient and don’t expect miracles.
Claudia Nash writes that Genealogy is an imaginative and empirical practice involving electronic searching and historical fragments, ideas of blood and genetics, and cultural memory. I agree with this view and recognize the value of genealogy research in today’s digital world.
A couple of weeks ago we were treated to a very interesting lecture given by Elaine Bliss about digital storytelling. Digital storytelling is the process by which ordinary people create their own short autobiographical films that can be streamed or broadcast on the web.1 It is very unique as it is a participatory exercise that lets ordinary people tell a story using new media. In the lecture we were shown a couple of examples of these digital stories. Both of them were quite emotional which was very affective as everyone remained engaged to the story.
Over the break i attended a large family reunion and was surprised in seeing digital storytelling used. There was a video camera setup in a small room and one by one people were invited in to tell stories into the camera. It was a very valuable experience as many interesting, emotional and funny stories were told about our old relatives. It was also important that it was done individually as many people had fears of public speaking and this let some stories escape that otherwise would never be told. However the only hiccup with this storytelling process was that one of the older relatives had trouble keeping on topic about family and would only tell stories about his old horse.
Overall though this experience was very engaging and the young members of the family found it valuable listening to some old family stories. It may not have the most historical accuracy but digital storytelling is still valuable in giving ordinary people a chance to share some of their history.
If you are interested here are some sites:
1 Burgess, Jean, ‘Hearing Ordinary Voices. Continuum: Journal of Media & Culture 20.2 (2006). p.206