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Seeking information, seeking connections, seeking meaning: genealogists and family historians. Genealogy, Family history, Information seeking, Archives, Personal information management

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Author(s): Elizabeth Yakel

Journal: Information Research: an international electronic journal
ISSN 1368-1613

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 205;
Date: 2004;
Original page

Keywords: Genealogy | Family history | Information seeking | Archives | Personal information management

ABSTRACT
Genealogy and family history are examples of everyday life information seeking and provide a unique example of intensive and extensive use of libraries and archives over time. In spite of the ongoing nature of this activity, genealogists and family historians have rarely been the subject of study in the information seeking literature and therefore the nature of their information problems have not been explored. This article discusses findings from a qualitative study based on 29 in-depth semi-structured interviews with genealogists and family historians and observations of their personal information management practices. Results indicated that the search for factual information often led to one for orienting information. Finding ancestors in the past was also a means of finding one's own identity in the present. Family history is also an activity without a clear end goal; after the ancestry chart is filled out the search continues for more information about the lives of one's forebears. Thus, family history should be viewed as an ongoing process of seeking meaning. The ultimate need is not a fact or date, but to create a larger narrative, connect with others in the past and in the present, and to find coherence in one's own life.
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