I’m often asked why I spend so much time on researching family history – not just mine, but other people’s families as well. History of any sort has always been something that I have enjoyed. Whilst at high school, I took every history class I could. I attended high school at a time when classes were streamed with either a Maths/Science emphasis, Humanities or Commercial emphasis.
Those in the Maths/Science stream were invariably tagged as the bright kids, the Humanities tended to average but creative and the Commercial were going to be the early school leavers. The Commercial stream subjects included Home Economics, Typing and Shorthand; subjects I could never have imagined myself needing or wanting to study.
I fell into the Humanities basket – creatively average! I hated the languages but was forced to study them right through to Year 12. I also just managed to scrape through to Year 12 in the basic Maths class which was also compulsory. Where I had some choice was in the History areas. Over the latter years, we could choose – and I chose them all. Everything that was offered, I did.
I’m not good with the dates or the major wars – that sort of History isn’t captivating. What fascinates me is the how people lived, what factors influenced their life choices, how world events could affect the ordinary person, how did the not-so-ordinary person function within the society’s strictures, customs and expectations at any given time. The list could go on and on.
At one point, I spent a great deal of time looking at the history of people marginalised by their sexuality or their calling – there’s not a lot of people about who would read for ‘entertainment’ histories documenting the dire fates awaiting homosexuals in the 18th Century if they were discovered. Such reading enabled me to understand the influence of the church on the law, societal standards and double standards, impacts of industrialization in UK and Europe and how women could be financially independent at a time when they were still regarded as property. So illuminating!
Is it any wonder that, when I discovered that the University of Tasmania was offering units of online study in Family History, I jumped in boots and all? I haven’t studied formally for the best part of 40 years. I wasn’t going to let that stop me although I doubted whether my research and writing skills would be of the required standard, let alone my computer skills.
It seems I needn’t have been too concerned. I was up to the mark – and I have developed somewhat of an addiction to study. I have to date completed three units of the Diploma of Family History and am currently enrolled in two more. There are three more to complete for the Diploma and my name is on the list for those.
Just because I could, I have also undertaken three units in the Health Sciences field and a Photography unit in the Arts stream. My results have all been pretty good – High Distinctions – although in the Diploma we are only given an ungraded pass as a final result, we are marked and graded as we complete each assessment.
Why am I doing this? Why not? Just because I am technically a “Senior” doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to broaden my horizons, expand my skills, meet new people and generally want to be challenged by the unknown. I want to learn – so why not learn about something that intrigues and delights me?
I can hear the observant muttering “But what about those Health Science units she mentioned. What’s that got to do with family history?” Good question. They were offered and I thought that I might give them a try after having successfully completed the first unit of the Family History diploma. They hooked me in too as they were just as much about answering some of those questions posed earlier. What factors influence how people behave/eat/exercise? More opportunities to explore social issues in a health science environment couldn’t be ignored. Besides, they helped out with better equipping me as an effective volunteer in the health and aged care sector.
So, one creatively average high school student has evolved into a multidisciplinary mature aged university student. I’m studying History, Art, Health Sciences and English across three different study plans online at a Uni I will probably never set foot in and I’m having the time of my life!
I’ve realised, having got to the end of this post, that my real reason for writing was because I had received the latest unit results today. I wanted to celebrate my achievement. Instead I’ve reflected – that English class must have taught me something after all!