I’ve been reading old Descents, the journal of the Society of Australian Genealogists. Currently I’m in the early-1980s, where life for genealogists was quite different than it is now.
Still, it is not as different as they thought that it was going to be. There was a prediction in an article by Elizabeth Simpson called ‘Historians and Genealogists’ (Vol 11, Part 3, Sept. 1981) that in twenty years there would be no need for anyone to do any further research because it would have all been done. Every family, presumably, would have done all the research that could be done and later generations would have nothing left to do.
Well, I’m here to say that this optimistic situation hasn’t eventuated. Not only has there not been the widespread interest in genealogy that may have contributed to this result, but there is always more to do!
Some people distinguish between genealogy and family history. Genealogy is the tracing of ancestors and filling in a chart. Names and dates, basically.
Family history is what you do when the names and dates are no longer enough and you want to know about the boxes on the chart as people. You want to know about their lives – where they lived, where they went to school, where they got married, what they did for a living, what they owned, what they looked like and what sort of people they were.
The search for information that can answer these questions can take a lifetime. It can take many years to find a single name or event. Finding information is becoming easier in this era of Ancestry and FindMyPast and other online resources but there is still so much that is only available in libraries and private papers. The difficulty is in finding out that the information is there to be found.
My mother said to me once that there was no point in her getting involved in researching her family because I’d already done it all. If only that were true! Unfortunately I don’t think it ever will be ‘done’.