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Active Retirees : Active Retirees Dec-Jan 2012
FEATURE might hold a much needed piece of information. Brad Argent, Content Director at ancestry.com.au, is in charge of choosing which records from around the world are indexed or digitised on the popular website. “Today, within 90 seconds,” Argent claims, “you can find and view records that, ten years ago, an Australian could only have flown to London to see.” While the average age of family historians has dropped from 62 to 55 in the past 4.5 years, it does not necessarily follow that fewer people over 60 are researching their families. What it does suggest is that more young people research their families today, and that family history, as much as it can tell you about your ancestors, also has the potential to connect living generations. There are other advantages as well, including familiarising researchers with technology and creating communities of researchers. “A lot of older people are using family heritage technology as a way to learn about computers,” Argent says. “Local libraries and local family history societies have become community-based entry points into both technology and family history.” Using the latest technology in family research is good, but only if it is part of a rigorous approach to research. Jenny Higgins, Family History Reference Librarian at the National Library of Australia, believes that internet search engines can mean that people are more shallow in their approach these days. “They take a lucky-dip approach – searching but not researching.” Reputation or research? Deciding to take research seriously is the key to good history, according to Professor Barbara Caine, University of Sydney academic and author of Biography and History. “One has to decide when doing family history if one wants to be a keeper of the family name and reputation, or a serious researcher and investigator.” In short, the time will come when the family history hobbyist must decide between reputation and research. Jenny Higgins often helps her friends begin their family history, and recently assisted a friend who thought very highly of her family’s reputation. The friend soon discovered stories of relatives born twelve months after their fathers had left for war. Higgins witnessed her shock. “I thought she might not go on with it,” she recalls. “But I saw her a few weeks later and she told me it was all she could think about. She was hooked, despite the challenge to the family name.” Dealing with misinformation Every family historian knows someone who followed a false lead, usually someone who flew around the world before realising the mistake. The internet makes » Hooked on history Starting your research online may not be the best idea. The onset of internet search engines means “more people are starting their family history in isolation, not through the support of a society or local library”, warns Heather Garnsey, Executive Officer of the Society of Australian Genealogists. People working in isolation can get lost and incorrectly interpret information. The following three tips are sure to get your family research off to a stable start: 1 Join your local family history or genealogical society. If you can’t find your local society, consult your local library or the Society of Australian Genealogists’ webpage. 2 Purchase a research guidebook. Jenny Higgins, Family History Reference Librarian at the National Library of Australia, recommends Sue Fallon’s Family History for Beginners and Beyond (published by the Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra). This guidebook will help you work efficiently and effectively in the library, archives and online databases. 3 Verify your findings. Garnsey is worried that the internet allows people to share information too quickly, before it has been double- checked. Not only might you have incorrect information about your family; other researchers might draw on your incorrect information. Where to start Active RetireesTM | 27
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