Clients, Reading, Publishing

It has been ages since I have posted to my blog. It’s amazing how projects fill in the time.

I’m really pleased to have been able to help a number of clients find ancestors and relatives. It is really rewarding to have those "Eureka!” moments. On the obverse side, not finding ancestors and relatives can be really exasperating. It is barriers such as privacy laws that make such findings unavailable. I can well understand how living people want to maintain privacy, but it is my opinion that once a person is dead, they no longer have a personal interest in such documents, so researchers (professionals in particular, and descendants in general) need to be able to access documents. It disappoints me when I have to report back to a client that I am unable, and probably they will be unable, to order or to view relevant documents.

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I have been readingAlison Light's book Common People. It describes the author's journey tracing her ancestors. I particularly like this:

“The 'family detective' in television programmes like the BBC's immensely popular Who Do You Think You Are? has the resources instantly at her command: a budget from the TV company to pay professional genealogists or to ferry her across the country or even continents to pursue branches of her family; immediate access to librarians and archivists, who drop whatever they are doing for the film crews and put a finger straight away on the right document (the team of researchers fresh from university, who have already done the legwork, disappear from view); academic experts and local historians on call, who explain the context. In order to shape a story several possible 'leads' will have been discarded; months of searching concertina'd into a finely honed hour on air. But as most viewers know, family history, like all historical work, is messy and loose-ended, full of false starts, red herrings and wild goose chases, discoveries which are sheer serendipity and might so easily have been missed.

Far from being dead ends or time-wasters, these detours are part of historical work. They reveal our misconceptions and dislodge our assumptions about the past.”

[Light, Alison, Common People, London, Fig Tree, 2014]

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My father-in-law’s memoirs, which I have been working on, intermittently, for a couple of years, are now finished and are off at the publishers. They make for really interesting reading and present stories in the context of the times. It is my first effort at producing a book. It has been a real mission, proof-reading, annotating, finding pictures, formatting, but I am really pleased with the final result. It is going to be available in soft-cover, ebook, and PDF formats. After Christmas, I will post details of how interested people may obtain a copy.

Jan Powell