Saturday, December 18, 2021

Learning not Doing

Earlier this year I came to the realisation that my focus should change from Learning about family history to actually Doing family history research. In a post, Genialogy, I outlined a few steps I had taken to realign my focus but I didn't discuss my own learning.

As I am in my eighth decade here on earth and I'm not sure if I will see my ninth or tenth I value every minute that presents itself. In his poem "Stopping by woods on a snowy evening" Robert Frost penned these words:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

The promises I must keep are to my ancestors, I should be devoting my time to exploring the woods of the past to document their histories and tell their stories. I have many miles ahead on my path.

My Great-great grandparents Richard Aspinall and Mary Homer
 with Great Grandmother Mary Jane Aspinall

Being at home for nearly two years during the pandemic gifted me with an opportunity to indulge my interest in family history but, Alas, I fear I got the balance wrong and squandered that opportunity.

I always learn something from the many (mostly online) events I attend but oftentimes these are just little things that are "nice to know" not things that I "need to know".  Some of the events I have attended are educative and entertaining and some have been dull and boring. How does one quantify the value of hours of zooming? Were the lectures and presentations worth the time I devoted to them?

If I had applied myself to practical research and the incidental learning that comes from that activity my learning may have been more appropriate to my needs. I remember from my days as an educator that the most effective learning is that which is timely or at the point of need. I can only recall one such instance during the past two years that fits that criteria for me, it was the engaging and challenging Chromosome Analysis course presented for the SAG by Veronica Williams. 

As I reflect on my needs I realise that when I have a need for information or guidance I usually find it myself, either, on the internet in a recorded webinar, blog post or Youtube video, in a journal or a book or by asking someone who knows more than I. As a result, in recent months I have cut down on attending events that present topics that are "nice to know" and directed my focus to learning about things I "need to know" to progress my research.

How have you allocated the genealogy time that you were gifted by the Covid situation?


  1. Hi Jill,

    I completely get it. I've kept doing the research while fitting in society work, webinars, and online meetings, but in moderation.

    Go for the research now - there's more available online than ever before, especially in the British Isles. I've been working on my Somerset and Wiltshire ancestors, and Linda's Lancashire and Norwegian ancestors, plus my grandsons Italian and Danish ancestors.

    Then there's real life, and I'm trying to manage that too in the time I have.

    Have a wonderful and warm Christmas - it's winter here (highs are now 13-20C, lows 5 to 10C with some rain each week).

    Cheers -- Randy

  2. Hi Jill spot on. I changed my focus back to my research last year. I have progressed my research and my draft family histories for my immigrant ancestors almost to the point of printing. I don’t want my 44 years of research lost and forgotten. The plan is that all will be finished by the end of 2022 and I can start travelling again. Merry Christmas and hope to catch up sometime soon

  3. Thanks to you both for your comments.

    So pleased to see two genies I admire concurring with my thoughts.

  4. Most of my genealogy is focused on doing, though from time to time it has been good to do a little learning. Focusing on doing helps to identify gaps in my genealogy knowledge and in my family trees, and these can be used to work out what areas of learning I need.

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  6. My genealogy has usually been about research. That said I often don't have a plan but rely on serendipity because you never know what you will uncover. My learning has always been about the history, mainly social history of places where my ancestors lived. That said, my holiday goal is to learn more about DNA and to write a few more blog posts.

  7. Hi Jill, The past months have been a challenging period and investing in your body of knowledge will serve you well at some point, I suspect.

    At some point, you'll have a need for aspects of the information you've gained from webinars and videos. Please give yourself credit for stepping back and "sharpening the saw" (as we Americans might say). Merry Christmas from New England,


  8. Thanks Marian for your support and a Happy New Year to you.


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