Speed-relating: family history in a digital age

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15 Citations (Scopus)


The boom in family history that began in the 1970s has gained new impetus by the rapid digitisation of genealogical sources and their instant availability through online family history sites such as ancestry.com. Instead of having to visit distant libraries and archives, stumble around country churchyards and fumble with microfilm readers the family historian can now apparently retrieve everything she needs from the desktop of her home computer. But can she? This article considers the implications of ‘speed-relating’ and the new aggregations of intellectual property it has created for the future of family history. It traces the development of the largest of the new family history sites, The Generations Network, its commercial links with the successful SBS series ‘Who do you think you are?’, and examines the new commercial relationships it has established with the original, usually public, owners of the records and with the individual family history researchers who access them. It ponders the implications for personal privacy of the links now being established between online family history and DNA testing. And finally, it reflects on the ways in which ‘speed-relating’ may be subtly changing the pursuit of family history from a kind of secular pilgrimage to a series of consumer transactions. This article has been peer-reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43.1-43.10
Number of pages10
JournalHistory Australia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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