A Little Bit of (Personal) History
02 May 2015

A Little Bit of (Personal) History

We’re now connected to each other like

02 May 2015

We’re now connected to each other like never before, thanks mainly to the marvel of the World Wide Web. How else could you be playing chess with someone in Malaysia while Skype-ing your aunt in Norway and watching a live feed of a soccer game in South Africa, all at the same time?

But it’s not just the present we are now intrinsically connected to – it’s the past as well.

The Best Story there is – the Story of Your Family

We human beings are fascinated by history. Ever since we created language we’ve been recording history for the benefit of our future generations, and now those future generations are here to look back on our fascinating past; before the internet, before electricity, even before steam!

Viewing history is a way of understanding and appreciating what it was that got us to where we, as human beings, find ourselves today. But instead of taking an academic approach, it’s perhaps even more fascinating to take a personal one.

We all have parents, and we all have grandparents, and we all have great-grandparents and so on and so on. Researching your own family genealogy is something that is truly fascinating. While the world can share Julius Caesar or Marco Polo or Abraham Lincoln, there’s something special and unique about finding out about the real lives – humdrum or otherwise – of the real people who met each other, and had children, who had children, who had children … that eventually resulted in our own, miraculous presence on this planet.

The “Roots” of Modern Genealogy

In 1976 Alex Haley published the book ‘Roots’ which found its way onto our TV screens a year later. It was the largely fictitious story that traced the lineage of Haley back to a Gambian man named Kunta Kinte who was captured by slave traders in 1765 and brought to Maryland. The show continued through Kinte’s life and the lives of his descendants over the following two hundred years.

Roots sparked a real interest in family genealogy, and people were inspired by the show to discover their own, personal ‘roots’.

Very soon, millions of people all across the world were researching their family trees, poring over dusty old books, documents, and records as they sought to connect with their past.

Family Genealogy – the Next Generation

The main point of how genealogy works is via connectivity. Fathers are connected to sons, aunts to nephews, uncles to nieces, and so on, eventually building a huge network of family ties.

All this information has to be stored somewhere, and since the mid-1990s, a lot of it has been archived and published on the internet. Documents have been scanned, records created, and now vast deposits of personal information can be consulted from the comfort of your own armchair, simply by logging into a site such as FindMyPast.com, Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org.

Another option to consider is a live audio or video recording of a personal or life story recorded by a specialist at the Association of Personal Historians. Creating this type of memoir is a great way to connect generations and preserve memories. The Memory Theater is a proud, new member of the APH, working to preserve the visual representation of family legacies by converting fading photographic prints, reel-to-reel home movies, camcorder tapes, and slides into forever-lasting, visually optimized digital presentations.

The true beauty of the internet is that by making your own connections, you could end up connecting with family trees being constructed by other people. You could end up with more freshly-discovered relatives than those who turn up for a will reading when a wealthy old relative passes away!

Researching your own family tree is like embarking on a wonderful, memorable journey with only an ancient, hand-drawn map to guide you. Who knows where you’ll end up?

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