Changing focus

24 Mar

Whilst sitting on the bus this morning on my way to work, enjoying the bright sun and (almost) clear blue sky, I got to thinking about my family history research. Rather than thinking about a particular ancestor or research problem, I started thinking about how my research has changed since last year, and in particular how the style of my research has changed.

Let me explain what I mean, at the start of last year (and probably a year or two before) my focus was very broad, I was intent on finding all my TROWER relations (e.g. living distant cousins) before they found me. More than once I contemplated starting a one-name study because that was what my research was becoming, but rather selfishly I was really only interested in those TROWERs who had a known connection to my ancestors.

Today, my research is very tightly focused, so much so that I am really only actively researching two people at moment: William Henry MITCHELL (2x great grandfather) and Thomas KINGHORN (3x great grandfather).

Obviously to build up a story of their lives the research includes parents, spouses and children (as well as places and occupations), but at the core of my current research are these two individuals.

The switch between wide and narrow focus can probably be attributed to one key moment, the discovery that my 2x great grandfather George Thomas GASSON spent about a third of his life in a mental asylum (and eventually died there).

Whilst this discovery and my desire to find out more led to an immediate narrowing of focus in my research, it also taught me one important lesson that would go beyond George Thomas GASSON, that was that in every generation there is at least one interesting story waiting to be told.

I had mistakenly believed that my ancestors never did anything remotely interesting, but now I can see my ancestors in a new light, everywhere I looked there was something interesting going on, if I just took the time to look closer. In time those stories will be told.

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