Time: the family historian’s biggest enemy

18 Oct

[I will apologise right at the start that this is going to be a rather rambling post, probably repeating itself several times and wasting a slice of your precious time, but thanks for reading it anyway]

I would have to say that a lack of time is probably the family historian’s biggest enemy (I am talking here about the amateur researcher, not those that do it for a living) and certainly my own biggest challenge. There are just too many demands on our time these day, some of these are of our own making, but the vast majority are things we need to do just to survive.

If I had lots of money things would be easier, but where is the enjoyment of paying someone else to visit an archive and search the records for you? Effectively reducing your role to an observer rather than participant. Family history doesn’t make a good spectator sport.

The change in my employment situation about three month ago (getting a job again after six months out of work) has had a major impact on my ability to carry out any family history research. A big part of the problem was the sudden dramatic change, from lots of free time down to virtually none. Rather than being grateful for having a job, it felt like someone had stolen all my time and I would never have time to do any family history ever again.

I realised that thinking like this wasn’t going to get me anywhere, if I actually wanted to carry one doing family history then I would have to change my way of thinking more than anything else. Family history was a big part of my life, and I wanted it to still be a part of my life, but I had to accept that it wasn’t going to be such a big part.

There were several things that I had to do, part of that was to do with managing my time better and making the most of the available time, but a large part of it was about setting my expectations and accepting the situation:

The situation isn’t going to last forever – I don’t realistically expect to be in this job for the rest of my life (although it would be nice if I was), so one way or another the situation is going to change again at some time in the future, and hopefully I will be able to spend more time on family history.

I couldn’t do everything that I wanted with my family history – Until my situation changes again I am not going to be able to do everything I want to so I need to get used to the idea and make the most of the time I do have, rather than worrying about what I don’t have time to do.

Sometimes family history has to take second place – There are many other demands on my time, and some are more important than family history. I shouldn’t resent the time that I have to spend doing other things and not necessarily see them as things that are preventing me from doing family history, but rather to see them as opportunities to take a break from family history and relax.

Family history is not just about collecting names and dates – By changing what I consider to be family history work, I have enabled myself to spend more time doing family history. This blog is now part of my family history work, reading other blogs and buying postcards of ancestral villages are also family history, as is walking around the places where my ancestors lived. It turned out I was doing more family history than I thought!

In conclusion, whilst I have made some effort to adjust they way I work to make it more efficient, by far the biggest answer to my lack of time has been changing my attitude and way of thinking rather than anything practical.

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