Re: Research Time
- From: "Don Moody" <dpmoody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2007 11:53:52 +0100
"Phil Hawkins" <cyclopsphil@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
A recent post regarding searching of archives (External - not the
internet) leads me tobelieve that a reminder might be in order.
When we search varioous sites on the internet for possible data that
is relevant to our research we have all (probably) got lost in time
and found that what was going to be a 'quick check' has taken up
That's in a medium that takes split seconds to access.
Going to a physical archice/repository.library where we need to
search through possible 100's of physical records, examine them (if
we are allowed to touch them), and then copy the relevant data onto
a notebook/psa etc can take hours. You sudedenyl find that they are
shutting the doors and you arrived at opening time.
Even more frustrating is the fact that only a small amount of
information has been gleaned in that time taken.
And that's if we already knew where to look and what we ae looking
for. (not like 'browsing the internet" and seeing what appears!
It seems to me to be very unwise to go armed with a large number of
names and missing data and expect to have all the gaps filled in by
the end of the day.
As Roy commented in a previous post "do your homework first!"
Keep with one or two ancestors and research them thoroughly (Maybe a
couple of others as backup, in case you stumble on all you needed
quickly), and expect to return many times if the archives hold data
that applies to your ancestors and/or the area they inhabited.
That, Phil, is a counsel of perfection and it isn't a practicality for
many of us. It's not genealogy (unless you are interested in matters
Chinese) but at a conference on Saturday a question came up about
whether I had looked through the series of tomes by Joseph Needham. My
answer was 'Not for decades. I can't lift them any more.' That got an
appreciative laugh, even from the fit young folk who had looked at
them recently. Some records are so bulky that they are impossible of
physical access by many.
As for going to repositories at all, there are questions such as 'Can
I afford the fair and/or overnight stay?' The answer for many is No!
In my case the answer would be Yes! But it wouldn't get me to any
repositiory where car-parking was not available very close to the
door, and I couldn't get to all the collection by wheelchair. Such
repoitories are exceedingly rare, in my experience.
I could go on, but that should make the point that there are personal
practical limits on how research can be done.
Genealogy is a long term project and countless hours of research are
needed. One day/week in a repository will not unlock all the data
you could find there.
One lifetime will not suffice to unlock all the data in any repository
worth visiting. Take the Chamberlain papers in the Special Collections
at Birmingham U. I am told they take up 60 yards of shelf space. How
long would it take to 'unlock all the data' in that lot? That is to
read with understanding every sheet of paper and every page of book in
that collection. I am not going to live that long, whether at one day
a week or full-time. And the Chamberlains are not even in my direct
lines. They are cousins, a minor theme in my genealogical efforts.
So there is another set of practical limits arising out of the sheer
amount of information.
Genealogy is necessarily a work-in-progress based on incomplete
information. It isn't just a 'long-term' project. It is a 'forever'
project. Infinitely extendible and without any absolute certainty. One
does what one can within the limits of practicability, and knows that
it is inevitably not enough. For those who like a tidy life of
certainties, this view is dangerous. For those trained in science,
this same view is liberating. One does the best one can at the time;
and when some young tiger comes along, falsifies one's work, and
replaces it with something better, then knowledge has advanced. As I
have written before, some of us are lucky enough to have one of our
own young tigers falsify our work. Few of us are so lucky, but I am
one, to have lived long enough to see their young tigers falsify their
The advance of knowledge does, indeed, depend on a counsel of
imperfection. Imperfection is an attainable objective in research.
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