Thursday, January 29, 2015

Congress Keynote Presenter Interview - Roger Kershaw

My latest interview is from one of our Keynote Presenters Roger Kershaw who has a dream job working at The National Archives in Kew.  I attended some of Roger's talks at Congress in 2012 and found them most illuminating. I look forward to catching up with Roger and hearing what he has to impart in 2015.

Roger Kershaw
* Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation? 

I guess I'm a little bit of all, plus an archivist, having achieved an MA in Archives and Records Management. History was my favourite subject at school and since joining the National Archives in 1986 I have become more immersed in it ever since.

* I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background?

I am from a small market town in Cumbria called Brampton, close to the Scottish border. I moved to London when I was 18 to go to college and have been here ever since, though I intend to return to my roots when I retire. After graduating with a degree in Modern European Studies, I joined the National Archives (then Public Record Office) in 1986 on a temporary casual contract and nearly thirty years later I am still here, thoroughly enjoying what I do. Throughout my career I have been public facing and working with the records either through an management, editorial, research or advisory role

* How has genealogy improved or changed your life?

I didn't really start to do any research in my own family history until the late 1990s and have been hooked on it ever since, discovering lines of my family history revealing people in all walks of lives, plus a murderer, not a direct ancestor I hasten to add! I think genealogy is a healthy, vibrant business, where you can meet a lot of interesting and engaging people, many of whom volunteer their time to vastly improve access to archives across the globe by cataloguing and promoting further research.

* What do you love most about genealogy?

On a personal note, the joy of discovering something new and revealing in my own family history is really satisfying. For example, my parents moved to Brampton from Yorkshire in 1967. It wasn't until I started to research our family tree in detail that I realised that his paternal great grandfather was born there in 1842 on a street just around the corner of the Office where my father worked for 20 years. I also like how genealogy is constantly evolving and how it's becoming more about how life has changed dramatically across generations as we embrace the broader public history ethos.

* Have you previously attended Congress?

Yes, in 2003, 2006 and 2012.

* What are your key topics for Congress?

Some a records based mainly around migration from the UK to Australasia, but I am also giving a talk on medical treatment for those in the Army during the first world war, together with two practical sessions on how to make the most of using the National Archives website – and on how archives can engage effectively with volunteers during the current austere years.

* How do you think your topics will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

I'm hoping that the practical sessions will equip them with new skills and methods for using resources at the National Archives. The records based sessions will also demonstrate how so many collections remain difficult to access because the level of cataloguing is too basic or because too little is understood about the collection and further research is required. I'm hoping this may help raise awareness and interest in future collaborative enhancement work, possibly involving volunteers.

* What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this for you personally and for others attending?

Definitely networking, sharing ideas, and seeking collaboration. For me, I'm keen to find out more about the National Archives of Australia and share ideas and knowledge about how we can effectively face challenges of the future. I'm also interested to see how commemorative plans around the centenary of the First World War are progressing to see if we can be more collaborative on this global issue.

* Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?

Don't believe everything you see on TV or online! Shows like Who Do You Think You Are? have been really great for promoting genealogy and increasing awareness of history and archives, be it at a local or at a national level. But they don't really reflect the realities and frustrations of family history and make it sound far too easy. Genealogy is really a skill that can take a long time to master so please use this opportunity to talk to as many people as possible, exchange contact details and engage effectively to help achieve greater accuracy, awareness and understanding of the holdings, wherever they may be.

1 comment:

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

I first heard Roger back in 2003 when he and his co-speaker surprised me with info on Mr Cassmob's military relative.


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