Somewhere in the depths of my memory is a little bit of half-remembered knowledge about how we go through different processes in the search for information. It comes from one of the courses I did in my Master of Information Studies degree and the bit I best remember – with some comfort at the moment – is the part about how confusion occurs at least once during a search as we go through the processes of finding and absorbing, re-thinking, finding and absorbing, until we have an answer – or even perhaps “the answer.”
I find this comforting because having taken on the huge task of researching my family history, I am beginning to realise not only how big this project could be, but also that there are so many potential ways I can go about doing it. I guess I thought names and dates, names and dates. But even if that were my approach; I find there are different emphases. Some people are only concerned with direct ancestors – lineage, while others want to fill in as many relatives as possible. One can be random or systematic – working one’s way through each person and generation, or zipping around wherever the urge or available data take one.
I don’t think I’ve finally decided on a technique or philosophy, but I do tend more to the random end of the continuum. That is partly because I’m partly using external subscriptions to ancestry databases and this necessitates physically going where the databases can be accessed (otherwise known as the fabulous Auckland public library service).
I’ve also decided that names and dates are actually the least of my concern. I want to KNOW my ancestors, and to do that I need much more information about them or more likely, the environment in which they lived. I want to tell stories, not merely record lineage.
Shaking the tree is an attempt to tell those stories.