It’s National Family History Month and I’m looking at the positives and the negatives of doing family history in covid times. It has been an interesting 18 months around the world with Covid raging, in some countries more than others. In Australia we have been relatively lucky. However, we have still experienced deaths of loved ones, lock downs, seen businesses suffer and other restrictions. As I write this, both New South Wales and Victoria are struggling to contain the Delta strain.
As someone who usually works from home, I have not been greatly impacted. The main inconvenience has been not doing in person events or attending geneaconferences either in Australia or overseas. It also coincided with the rest of my cancer treatments, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much.
What do I love about lock downs?
First must be the additional time spent on tidying up my 44 years of family history research. Paper has been sorted and despatched, stories written, photographs scanned, and genealogy databases tidied up and citations added. I did start a blog series about this right at the beginning but after five monthly progress reports it was abandoned. The job was overwhelming, and it simply takes lots and lots of time to merge paper systems into digital systems. Plus, it was boring. I would rather be doing new research, which of course just adds to the problem.
Second the rapid adoption of Zoom by the geneacommunity. I have been able to attend and speak at international conferences for free or a fraction of the cost and without the need to travel to the other side of the world. That’s a lot of money saved on airfare and accommodation and other travel costs. Our local Bribie Genealogy group meets via Zoom whenever meetings coincide with lock downs. We record the sessions so that those who have not adopted Zoom can still participate in the group. My Brisbane genealogy and family history societies now host their monthly meetings and Special Interest Group meetings via Zoom. That is much easier than having to travel down the highway and fight the traffic on Brisbane roads. Check the Events page to see my talks for the rest of 2021.
Third was the speed of which geneaorganisations responded to people unable to visit in person. I personally loved that the National Archives UK made all their digital records free to download. How good was that. Subscription sites such as Ancestry, Findmypast, The Genealogist and MyHeritage made their sites available through public libraries or genealogy and family history societies. What a wonderful and valuable addition to geneasociety membership.
What haven’t I liked so much about lock downs?
First is not being able to see my geneafriends in person, both locally, nationally, and internationally. Yes, we have social media such as Twitter and Facebook to share our thoughts and experiences but it’s just not quite the same. One of the main reasons I booked to go to the AFFHO Congress on Norfolk Island was to catch up and network with friends from Australia and New Zealand. I was disappointed when Congress was postponed. On the plus side, it is something to look forward to next year, Covid permitting.
Second is not being able to personally visit archives and libraries for research. Not everything is indexed by name or place and not everything is digitised and online. I have a steadily growing list of things to research at Queensland State Archives. It is a bit of a drive there and back in a single day from my place. I am now considering a little mini holiday at Runcorn. After all, I haven’t spent money travelling anywhere else. I may even be the first person to ever holiday at Runcorn!
Third and definitely not least, is not being able to see my son and his wife. They moved to Sweden to live about six months before Covid. They were planning to come home for a visit this year. Last Christmas I had planned to have my first ever white Christmas or Yule time as my son tells me. Then it was going to be Christmas 2021, but that’s not looking hopeful. Still, we have Facebook and Messenger and can chat and see each other. But it’s not quite the same as a good hug. Let’s hope 2022 is more positive around the world.
What about the future?
I hope that genealogy and family history societies continue to offer a mix of in person and online events. Zoom has really opened the geneaworld to many more people. I would hate to see us all go back to in person events. Not everyone can get to them. There is a place for both. and hybrid events are already happening.
I hope that the world opens soon to travel again. I am a person who likes to visit and see new places and experience different cultures and societies. So many places still on my bucket list.
Finally, I hope Covid goes away, and people stop getting sick and dying. In the past pandemics have always died out and we can only hope that Covid will disappear as well. Vaccinations will also help to eradicate it, as we have done with other diseases such as smallpox.
During National Family History Month, why not consider the positives and the negatives of your genealife in lock down. In the meantime, I am going back to downsizing and digitising my 44 years of family history research. Watch out for an update blog on my progress shortly.
Stay safe and well.