Stretching My Genealogy Muscles

If you’ve read my recent Bloggers’ Geneameme response,  you would know I often work on blog posts in my head while completing mundane tasks such as cooking dinner.  It must have been the child friendly Macaroni Cheese last night that allowed me to switch my mind off the job at hand and consider in-depth, a couple of the benefits of blogging for me.

For 10 years, I used The Master Genealogist (TMG) software. The Narrative report was my favourite because I like to see my family history in story form as it gives me a better perspective of dates and events.  A perfect example of how that format works for me is the post I wrote on September 15 for the Riddiford Centenary.  I have looked at the various dates for my great grandparents and their children time and time again.  But when I put them down in narrative form for the post, there staring me in the face was the fact that my oldest great-uncle was born only 5 months after his parents married.  Further on in the post I mention the birth of the last child in the family when my great-grandmother was 43.  I then wrote there was an age span of 26 years from oldest to youngest child.  Hang on a minute…43 take away 26 is…OMG Caroline was only 17!

With the TMG Narrative report, I could alter the wording of the built-in text plus add extra narrative.  It was fun, for a while,  but it was never right for me.  I switched over to Family Tree Maker about five years ago. While I missed TMG, the user interface with Ancestry. com.au ,my main reason for change because I’m lazy, was a big plus for me when it came to transferring vital records.  But I haven’t been able to present my data in the same way I did with the TMG Narrative report.

Also, I’ve always wanted to see the “big picture” of my ancestors’ lives, where they lived, what they did, the history of their towns and the events happening around them at the time of their lives.  That resulted in 100s of web page bookmarks about villages in England, histories of occupations and the like.  But what could I do with them?  I tried to write a history of the Harman family a couple of times trying different formats but  it didn’t feel right.  I felt it was a lot of work for little gain, in that it would sit on my hard drive and go nowhere.  I lacked motivation.

Circa 1930. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image No. H84.165/1 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/197430

Circa 1930. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image No. H84.165/1 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/197430

That’s where blogging comes in.  With this method I can write my family history in parts, swapping between branches to keep it interesting.  I can include the “big picture” and someone else gets to read what I write regularly, other than me.  Also, and this was the main theme behind my mind wanderings, it has stretched me.  It has forced me to dig deeper and think laterally, forced me to tidy up vital records on my software that I hadn’t followed up and be more aware of my genealogy time management.  Now, after just over two years and 245 posts,  I have collected stories about all branches of my family and posts relevant to the times and places they lived.  This would have been unachievable for me if I didn’t act and take up geneablogging.

Physical training at P. T. & R. School (ca 1942) Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria,Argus newspaper collection of war photographs. World War II. Image No. H98.105/4467  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/197430

Physical training at P. T. & R. School (ca 1942) Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria,Argus newspaper collection of war photographs. World War II. Image No. H98.105/4467 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/197430

As my mind wandered further,  I thought of something that has stretched me, or at least my genealogy muscles, more than blogging and that is the Diploma of Historical Research I’m currently undertaking.  It includes writing  a 20,000 word family history.  My stretching regime has had some changes and I am finding muscles I had forgotten about or didn’t know I had:

  • I am now forced to record my sources more accurately (I can’t link through to a website to prove my sources as I do here).
  • Now I have to get the more difficult to access records (for me anyway) that won’t tell me anything new, but will support my evidence.  My aforementioned laziness has not been the issue here but rather the barriers of work, child rearing and distance.  Now there are no excuses,  I have to stretch myself beyond those barriers.
  • Organization is now key and for me, that is a real stretch.
  • I have realised that even after researching the Harmans (the subjects of my thesis) as long I have, there is still so much more to find, so many gaps to fill.
  • There is a strict deadline.  While I have loose deadlines for my blog posts, I can move them a little.  I can’t do that with the Diploma and I keep having visions of my Uni days, pumping out assignments with only days to spare before the due date, simply because I had left it to the last minute.  A lot more work on that muscle is required.

One of the benefits of this extreme stretching will be that I will have written that Harman family history I have not been motivated enough to write before.  The extra exertion will be worth it for that reason alone.

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Photographer William Henry Freeman (1946) Image No. 126994 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/126994/

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Photographer William Henry Freeman (1946) Image No. 126994 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/126994/

So, if you want to start stretching your genealogy muscles start a blog.  Geneablogging was exactly what I was looking for but if you really want to stretch those muscles, complete a course or maybe  write a book.   Whatever your choice, get stretching, it feels good.

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9 responses to “Stretching My Genealogy Muscles

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