Family Tree UK

Are you a citizen historian? (Perhaps without even knowing it)

I confess that when Helen Tovey, editor of Family Tree Magazine, suggested I pen a piece on ‘Citizen Historians’ as a followup to the overview of Public History which appeared in the January issue, I was completely in the dark. I had no idea of the meaning inferred by the expression or the context in which it was being used as it was a new one on me! The word ‘Citizen’ had immediately conjured up images of a guillotine, complete with Madame Defarge, but rather than the lifespan of a man, I feared it may be the fate of history being measured in her knitting.

‘Googling’ the term did not provide any immediate clarity either, but it appears like ‘Public History’ itself, that ‘Citizen History’ is an umbrella under which hangs many handles! There is no doubt that to a certain extent the internet as a medium for the collection, storage, dispersal and sharing of records, has become a victim of its own success. Never before has access to vast amounts of data been so easy or immediately available, nor equally, has demand for sources of information, both old and new, been so great. Mercifully, the digital revolution in which we live bays for information rather than blood, but is it perhaps this demand for

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