Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sometimes I am a Grumpy Old Genealogist

Sometimes I am a Grumpy Old Genealogist
In recent years many people of all ages have started to research their ancestors online and often they don't realise the problems that were faced by people who researched their ancestors a generation or more ago. This was brought home to me by a recent email request I received.

The request came from a very distant relative about the marriage of a common ancestor who married in 1668, and not linked to Hertfordshire. Unlike many other geriatric genealogists I was very early in the use of computers for genealogy - and the last computer capable of processing my earliest files was scrapped nearly 25 years ago - and the detailed biographical information on some 6000 relatives, on some 1000 pages of listings has not been transferred to a modern genealogy package. I am therefore in a similar position to many others who started researching their families over 30 years ago without the use of computers. I have a vast pile of unindexed paper notes and records, many in rough note form, in filing cabinets in my office and in boxes somewhere inaccessible at the back of the garage. Even a simple request which could be answered by supplying a copy of a thirty year old photocopy can be very time consuming - and in many cases a new copy can now be ordered online for a few pounds. So should I spend several hours of my time shuffling through tons of paper when the questioner can buy another copy of the original online for a few pounds and five minutes at the keyboard.

More general questions, such as "tell me all you know about our common ancestors", can mean even more work. In such cases there can be a real desire to provide the information but because of the amount of work the queries have to be put on one side, with other similar requests, to be answered when (if ever) there is time ... Instead I will be try to post details of one or more of my ancestors a month - and if you are a distant cousin I will hopefully get to our common ancestor before I finally flake out. Alternately I may try and digitise some of the old computer listings to make it easier to share the old information I collected.

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