An exploration of the motives and historical understanding of family history researchers

Doctoral Candidate: Emma Shaw
Supervisors: Dr Robert Parkes [Principal] and Dr Debra Donnelly

Project Description:
Drawing on frameworks developed by Jörn Rüsen (1993) and Peter Seixas (2011), Emma’s study explores how, and to what extent, meta-historical understandings of the history discipline are demonstrated by family history researchers. This study also seeks to investigate the motives for undertaking family history research, and the influence of public pedagogies on individual’s relationship to the past. The significance of this study lies in its contradiction: family history research is a billion-dollar industry, with literally millions of participants around the globe, yet is paradoxically described within the literature and throughout previous studies as an under-researched field of study. Whilst previous studies in this field have primarily investigated the information-seeking behaviours of family history researchers (first-order disciplinary practices), this study is unique in its focus on the meta-historical (second-order conceptual) understandings of the history discipline. Further, as a pedagogical enterprise, the skills and concepts required for successful family history research are rarely learned and developed with formalised guidance from either the Academy or a single governing body. Rather, the act of becoming a family history researcher is predominantly self-taught. This makes the exploration of the meta-historical understandings of family history researchers interesting to explore, as they result from various forms of public pedagogy, rather than the consequence of learning in formal educational institutions.

Are you a Family history Researcher who would like to participate in this study?
Please click on the link to complete the survey: Family History Researcher Survey