To mark the Spring Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, I decided to run a Twitter poll to find out what would be a family historian’s perfect way to spend it.
Essentially the premise was you have some free time….but, here’s the catch, only enough to do one family history thing. What will it be?
I did not specify things such as weather – my assumption being that it would be neutral, not gloriously warm or pouring with rain which might sway choices.
One other thing that may have impacted the voting is the peculiar circumstances in which we currently live. Yes, pandemic lockdown restrictions are easing – but some constraints on what we can do remain, including numbers around meeting family depending on venue.
Being a Twitter poll I was limited to four options. I chose:
- Family history research;
- Ancestral tourism – to include any out and about visits to places associated with ancestors, be it where they lived, or went to school and married, to burial place;
- Family time/memory making; and
- Organising your research (be it formally collating and logging search results, updating family trees, labelling photographs, etc.)
This limitation was frustrating. I ruled archives out, it being a Bank Holiday. However, there were many other possible options I wanted to include: From having a distinct DNA choice like spending time on results analysis, to writing a family history book, biography or blog; from family history-related reading, to undertaking genealogy coursework; even preparing a family history talk, contributing to the work of a Family History Society, or participating in a collaborative crowd-sourcing project.
I would also have liked to get a feel for age ranges and experience of those who voted, as this might also impact on choices.
I realise that many family historians would want to do a combination of elements over the Bank Holiday, rather than focus on one thing. However, forcing one choice only meant that current priorities (and interests) were teased out.
The poll ran over 48 hours, ending at just before 9am GMT on Bank Holiday Monday. 112 people voted (a huge thank you), and it proved to be an interesting, and incredibly close-run, exercise. In fact, it went right down to the wire. Even in the final minutes there was nothing in it – a single vote either way would have swayed it.
The results were as follows:
It is apparent from this that people like results-based, or the more social and active family history, activities – the fun side of it. Perhaps even more so at holiday time. That’s no surprise. If you don’t enjoy it, why bother doing it?
And it is abundantly clear that the important background tasks such as methodical documentation, organising and collating research findings (and by extension planning) is regarded as more of a chore, an undertaking less suited to an entertaining Bank Holiday. Maybe that is an aspect that needs more attention – the importance of these mundane elements in contributing to more effective and better research.
The noteworthy take-away point though was the closeness of the result, with only the slimmest margin of votes separating the top three. Under normal everyday circumstances I would have expected research to be the runaway winner, rather than scraping over the line by a narrow squeak. The Bank Holiday element maybe key here – the desire, or need, to participate in more family-oriented activities. The backdrop of COVID may have made that even more of a priority.
And as for my perfect family history Bank Holiday weekend? I am in the camp where COVID coloured my choice.
The impact of the pandemic on family time made me reevaluate my priorities this Bank Holiday. With the exception of under a month last July, my area of Kirklees has been in some form of lockdown since March 2020. Even in that brief July 2020 window, number and location restrictions limited opportunities to get together. Meeting up with family has, in effect, been non-existent.
We had a family birthday this Bank Holiday weekend. To celebrate we had a small, socially distanced gathering in a garden to have a birthday tea and catch up generally. This was the first occasion we’ve been able to have any meaningful face-to-face quality time as a family since Christmas/New Year of 2019/2020. I will also be spending time with my daughter and 6-month-old grandson.
So for me family catch-up time and memory making trumped research, or any other family history activity, this Bank Holiday – and that time has been priceless.
Whatever your family history activity this Bank Holiday, hope it is an enjoyable one.