28 May 2020
The UK lockdown has seen a surge of interest in family history, as families seek to connect over the internet, and people isolated in their homes have more time to spend tracing their ancestors, Helen Tovey reports
New initiatives, such as ‘History Begins at Home’ (e.g. @historybeginsathome on Facebook), the ‘House History Hour’ on Twitter, and Family Tree’s #StoryOfOurStreet, all encourage people to look closer to home and enjoy the history and memories of their own families and localities.
Existing providers of digitised collections have made their records more accessible during lockdown. For instance, The National Archives has made its downloadable records freely available for the duration of lockdown, and many public libraries have extended the Ancestry access for library members so that they can access the website from their homes (not solely on library premises as is usually the case).
Many existing family historians have reported that it is a good time to make use of messaging facilities on subscription sites, as people have the time to respond at the moment. Family Tree DNA advisor, Karen Evans (episode 3 of the Family Tree podcast): ‘Because people are trapped at home, I’ve found personally that more people are responding to messages than they used to.’
While humans are ensconced at home, largely restricted to virtual communication over the web, historic venues that family historians would usually enjoy visiting through the summer months are reporting a different clientele. David Brown, National Trust ecologist at Corfe Castle, said: “This is the first time peregrines have nested here since the 1980s.’ Stoats, weasels, hares, buzzards, badgers, little owls, orcas and otters are just some of the other species that are taking the opportunity to explore National Trust attractions this May.
Image: Hans Veth/Unsplash