With coronavirus rampaging around the world, about the only thing that’s certain is that many of us are going to have a lot more time on our hands in the next few months.
Social media is full of ideas about how to occupy yourself when museums, restaurants, cinemas are closed and you’re told to stay indoors or avoid contact with other people. You can enjoy a live safari with Cincinnati zoo, watch live streaming of operas from USA or take virtual tours of museums and art galleries around the world.
If you’re an avid family history researcher, the obvious way to fill all this new leisure time, is simply to do even more research. It sounds an idyllic way to spend the day doesn’t it? But what if, like me, you find even that loses its appeal after a while? You can of course decide it’s time to do something you’ve been meaning to do for a while – clean up your files. If you’re anything like me, you start off doing that with great intentions and then find it’s incredibly boring.
I’m going to share with you a few suggestions for activities that I hope will be rather more fun. The added beauty is that they won’t cost you a penny.
I’ve been a massive fan of podcasts since I first heard about them in the early 2000s. I listen to them in the gym, my car and on flights.
Right now I have 15 different podcast streams on my iPod, covering a mix of book/reading discussions, true crime, drama and genealogy. The choice of programmes can be overwhelming – just take a look at the Apple Itunes podcast library for all the categories. You can also check for podcasts via Sticher.
I found 25 podcast programmes relating to genealogy/family history. Some are produced by people who also have blogs, others come from commercial outlets such as Ancestry and Geni. Some focus on a particular country – the GenealogyGuys programme for example is very oriented to USA – while others focus on research techniques. Many of the podcast streams are a blend of topics.
The styles, topics and length of programme vary considerably so its worth trying a few to find the ones you enjoy the most.
Among my favourites are Research Like a Pro which is hosted by a mother and daughter team of professional genealogists. I always pick up a tip or two from the programme about how to organise my research more effectively. I also like Generations Cafe with Lisa Louise Cooke because of the great variety of topics she covers.
Go Back To School
If you are afraid that your brain will turn to mush during the period of Covid-19 isolation, one solution would be to enrol for an online course. Just think how smug you’ll be come the summer (winter for you southern hemisphere folks).
There are zillions of webinars on genealogy related topics but I suspect you’re already familiar with those. Ditto the courses offered by Pharos. So I’ll focus on something you might not have thought about.
Now is a good time to add some political and context to your research by taking advantage of courses offered by universities around the globe. I’ve picked out just two from a very large selection.
The University of Strathclyde for example offers Working Lives in the Coal Mines: Mining History and Heritage. Over four weeks you’ll learn about the experiences of workers in the coal mining industry from the 1840s to the 1920s and about its impact on Britain. Though the course officially started on March 9 you can join it at any time.
For Welsh History, you can take a free course called Welsh History and its Sources delivered by the Open University. The content is in short modules with the content taken from the syllabi of their distance learning courses. it’s elf -directed so you start whenever you want, and take as much time as you want.
Learn a New Skill
Often we simply don’t have the time to devote to learning a new skill. You have no excuse now however!.
I’ve decided to spend my time on getting to grips with three technologies that I think will really enhance my genealogy research.
You all know that Google is an incredibly powerful platform for searching the Internet. But there are many other programs that are worth discovering. One that intrigues me is called Google Earth. It’s a powerful mapping and viewing software programme that you download free to your computer (it works with Macintosh and Windows). There is a version called Google Earth Pro which has some additional capabilities.
You can use Google Earth/Pro to get a bird’s eye or a street view of a location. There’s even a three-dimensional view, showing foliage and buildings for many areas around the world. Apparently you can even look at a historic view of the location and then compare it with today’s view by using an overlay. How cool is that!
I’m going to learn how to use this so I can get to know the location and environment of addresses recorded in the various census returns. I did try once but found it difficult – now I’ve seen that Lisa Louise Cooke has made her training material available free of charge.
Google Earth Pro is a free, downloadable software program that is compatible with both Windows and Mac. It requires an internet connection during use. The files you create reside only on your computer’s hard drive – they are not visible online.
GIMP is an image editor that enables you to retouch photos/graphics as well as create graphics, icons, posters that I can use on my blog site. It’s available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and more operating systems. I’ve been using Photoshop Elements for the past 3 years but it’s very complicated so I use only a fraction of its capability. To get the latest version I’d have to fork out another £40. GIMP does a similar job but is free…..
Both my parents are in the age category where they are advised to self isolate. I’m afraid of what this is going to do to their mental health so I’m trying to find ways to keep them occupied. One I thought of was to get them talking about their early lives and their family.
So I’m looking for a way to audio record our chats. I think the programme called Audacity (free to download) will be the answer. There may be an option to use Skype which means I could show them some old photos and ask them to identify the people in the picture – I just need to find out if Skype will give me a recording of the conversation.
So there you have it – some ideas on how you can keep your head while all about are losing theirs in the months ahead. If you have additional ideas do let me know.