It is a pleasure to share the adventure of researching Family History and, over the last four weeks, I have been sowing the seeds of what is likely to be a lifelong addiction for the students attending the course I am teaching.
In this Beginners Course, we are learning about research skills, learning how to avoid some of the pitfalls, how to be discriminating about those wonderful family legends and how to keep all that you find in the safest and most organised of manners possible.
Most importantly, we have discovered the human impact of probing into the past. I could see that not everyone thought it was relevant to be cautious about with whom they shared their most recent exciting discovery. I could warn them of the possibility that someone was likely to get upset if a long held belief was overturned or family secret uncovered and published. It was impossible to ensure that they heeded the message.
It is easy to assume that an official document like a birth, marriage or death certificate will be of all things accurate. After all, its the official record, it will be right, surely?
I had shared my own experience of arriving at the church to find all the documents I was asked to sign had my surname spelled incorrectly. I can recall quite clearly Canon Holt telling me I was going to be fashionably late whilst he rewrote all the paperwork – it seems I would not have been legally married if he had gone ahead with the wrong name on the certificate! My students humoured me…. but they took a second look at their own paperwork. Imagine the surprise when one discovered that she too had a marriage certificate with her given name incorrect – she had been married for over 40 years and had never noticed!
Their heads bent over the certificates and, with fresh eyes, they looked for all those little clues that could lead to a new line of inquiry. They discovered how the details given on any certificate could be incorrect, or that information could have been missed. They learned that death certificates could provide clues but not all the answers they sought.
But what could they do to uncover details of family comings and goings, funerals and financial scandals, deaths and deliveries, if these events occurred within the embargoed periods where state held information was protected by Privacy Acts?
This is where TROVE and the combined resources of the National Library of Australia and all the state libraries comes in. The digitised newspaper collections accessible through TROVE can offer up all sorts of wonderful insights into the events of the day.
How wonderful is it to be able to browse the pages of the local newspaper and find the report of the wedding of your grandparents detailing the gowns, the gifts and even the grub served at the wedding breakfast? Or perhaps a social event they attended in the weeks leading up to their wedding?
Recently, it was announced that funding cuts to the NLA would be applied to TROVE, jeopardising this world class resource and service beloved by historians, researchers, students and family historians alike.
The response was immediate – a Facebook page sprang into life, the Twitterverse went into overdrive #fundTrove and its making the news: ABC News
Trove is part of the future for research… its going to be vital in the making of this ‘clever country‘ as it is already to the many thousands who have already discovered its abundant treasures. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to take funding away from the very place it needs to be if we are to become world leaders as smart, inventive and scholarly people? The very nature of Trove in itself is world class – why would we settle for second best?
Support the campaign to restore and extend the funding to the NLA. Sign a Petition, write to your local Federal MP, blog about it, tweet about it, talk about it. Become part of the community that learns from and helps to build the resource that is TROVE for future generations of students, teachers, researchers and all round clever people!