It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

26 September 2013

Not one person in the field of family history…. genealogy…. call it what you will …. could possibly say that they know everything. But thankfully, there are lots of extremely knowledgeable individuals, many of whom are great networkers, willing to share their expertise with others for free. Every researcher has brick walls, no matter how experienced you are and one of the best things about being a family and/or local and/or social historian, is the camaraderie.

Credit: David Hawgood

Tracing your ancestry can be a very isolated affair. Back in the days of the Family Records Centre, I well remember – in my early twenties – being observed by the older generation of service users as if I had two heads. What on earth was I doing there? Well, strangely enough, the same as everyone else! Digging into the past to try to discover the skeletons in the closet – and boy, there have been a fair few….

I haven’t always been the person I am today – goodness me, is that a confession that I have actually grown up? – but what I have always been is a ‘people person’. I guess that’s what made me want to find out about people…. But more than that, I love inspiring people.

Initially, I was worried about doing research professionally, lecturing, publishing and Heir Hunting, as I didn’t want to inspire people by getting it utterly wrong. Being a meticulous person, I am an absolute stickler for accuracy – apologies to people who work with me on committees, or indeed anyone who has assisted with recent web design projects! Fortunately, for longer publications – journals, books and articles – I am lucky to have a superb proof reader, sometimes two!

But, it doesn’t matter how good we are individually as no-one knows everything about how to research local and family history. There are some people who are prominent on the social media channels and some experts who dedicate their time to researching in the record offices, having an immense knowledge and sharing it in a different way. Networking is crucial, no matter how you do it. There is no right or wrong way, though one thing is for certain: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

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