What Will Historical Research Look Like In the Future?

We live in a time when change seems to surround us. Global lines of communication mean that information travels more quickly than ever and allow us to share ideas, hopes and more and more unite us in a common history that surpasses cultural or national boundaries. 

So, it begs the question: What will historical research look like in the future? I tried to answer the question, but it should be noted that what I came up with is based solely on my observations and is done in a spirit of fun rather than any kind of authoritative insight I have on the topic.  


There was an article this Summer on the Fast Co. Exist blog that discussed jobs that might appear by the year 2030.  Among these was one titled "Nostalgist" which is described to be like an interior designer, but who focuses on creating a decorative scheme reminiscent of another time.  As historians turn toward less traditional career trajectories in consulting and business, this seems like all to real a possibility.  

In fact, not just interior design, but other decidedly kitschy and commercialized facets for history could appear. 

Just as the automobile forever changed business in America, replacing catalog retail with shopping malls and facilitating the appearance of fancifully shaped rest stops.  So, too, has the computer and internet changed the face of historical research.  Unfortunately, just as the world never reverted to its pre-automobile condition, it is equally unlikely that the closing libraries, historical and genealogical societies will stop.  

I think that the future will bring the close of many more than we have already seen, and I am no happier about it than I'm certain any of you are, but I don't believe they will all close.  Some will survive, those who learn to harness the power of marketing and begin to look at their facility as a business with a service to provide as opposed to an organization with inherent value.  With the internet providing a more convenient, often less expensive means for getting information, it will be harder for the public at large to perceive the inherent value, rather, it will have to be clearly communicated. 

The societies and museums that will do it best will be those which aren't afraid of change, as we've seen recently, some genealogical societies have began to merge with historical societies.  These mergers could prove useful providing a greater audience for one united society, but combining collections and archives could be an infrastructural nightmare without the proper facility and manpower in place. 

Meanwhile, catalogs and collections will have to become more digitized and I think we will begin to see more online exhibitions.  I think that this could lead to an online research library where a research librarian will be available by chat or e-mail to answer questions and help locate or send along resources.  Maybe these resources will be available for check out like an ebook from a library with a paid membership to an online repository.  

Of course, my humble book-loving, paper-touching, opinion is that the digital experience could never ever measure up to the sensory experience of being in a library.  So, I hope that these innovations wouldn't make it impossible to do research in person, but the reality is, it might.  

All the more reason to dive in and start researching now! 

What are your predictions for the future of historical research? What do you think is likely to change? What do you think will stay the same? Let us know in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Interviewing Your Relatives to Honor Them

I recently watched this video by business genius Brendan Burchard that was not only extremely moving, but also so crazy relevant to what I do here at The Historium that it pretty near blew my mind listening to it. 

Faced with his father's diagnosis with a terminal form of cancer, he had the incredible foresight to ask him to do a recorded interview.  I will let you watch his video 

What an incredible story and an important message.  We call that an oral history interview and truly it can be a priceless memento, but Brendan also points out an often overlooked aspect.  It is easy to think of interviewing someone as intimidating, you may think that they won't want to talk to you or worry you might come off as noisy.  I have done many interviews through my work here, and we human beings love to tell stories almost universally.  It makes us feel important and cared for to be listened to.  If it is too uncomfortable, you can hire a professional to help, having that record of your family member's life will be so worth it in the end.  

If you need some help, check out these past blog posts:

Another resource is my ebook, The Purposeful Family Historian which also discusses both the benefits as well as some resources and techniques for composing an oral history interview.

Have you ever interviewed a loved one? What did you wish you would have known before hand? Or are you hesitating about interviewing someone?  What is stopping you from doing it? Tell us in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Sneak Peek! Family History Research Planners Coming in October!

Things have been so exciting here!  The launch of the new ebook The Purposeful Family Historian is right around the corner, and on that note I have even more big news!  I have been working for nearly two years to perfect The Historical Research Planner System which will be debuting this October!

UPDATE 10/1: They're here!! When you finish with this post, check out the shop to get your planner pack as an instant download! 

Those of you who are on the mailing list got the news first but I have new exclusive details today.  Not on the list yet? Sign up at the bottom of this post to get all the details first AND the Free Photo Memories Workbook in your inbox. 

The system is available as three separate packs, which integrate seamlessly with one another or are useable one at a time, all of which are printable PDF Smart Forms with Fillable blanks:

  1. The Calendar Pack - to help you set goals, break them down into tasks and schedule them for increased productivity and focus.
  2. The Genealogy Pack - with forms to organize your entire family tree while keeping everything color coded for efficiency and organization. 
  3. The Filing Pack - has everything you need to file your whole project, utilizing coordinating color-coded box labels, file labels and binder tabs.  

Are you as excited as we are? Let us know below! Keep checking back to get updates about the launch!

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Beat Procrastination With Scheduling

September 6 is National Beat Procrastination Day, and the productivity seeker in me couldn't pass up the chance to pass on some goodies I've learned about using scheduling to take down procrastination and make insane progress on your family tree!

So here are my tips to beat procrastination and amp up your productivity by scheduling:

1. Schedule goal-setting sessions.   Everyone else gets a chunk of your time, so why don't you? Set up some time with yourself to figure out what you need to get done.  Make 4 separate 20-30 minute appointments with yourself on different days. In these appointments you will come up with annual, bi-annual, monthly and weekly goals.  

**Make sure you are making your goals reasonable.  A good rule of thumb is to use SMART goal setting and start with one goal for each time period.**

2. Break each goal into tasks and schedule those tasks.  Figure out how many tasks you have, and divide them evenly over your time period.  Do this first with your longest term goals and work toward your shortest term goals.  Schedule the tasks for days and times when you are typically free to work and concentrate.  Remember, none of this is set in stone, just like you can reschedule your dentist appointment if something comes up, you can reschedule these tasks if you just can't do it. 

3. Give yourself credit and schedule rewards for accomplishing goals.  The importance of this step cannot be overstated.  Even if you understand the importance and value of achieving your goals, the subconscious, reward-driven Id in your brain will still pitch a fit like an unruly two-year-old if you ignore it for too long.  Everyone needs a substantial 'atta-boy every now and again.  If possible, match the reward value to the difficulty of the goal.  More difficult goals that you have been working toward for a longer period of time should have a more substantial reward assigned. 

I hope these tips help you beat procrastination!  What tools and tips do you use to make sure you optimize productivity when you are working on a big project? Share with me in the comments!

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

What is Oral History?

I think History is commonly perceived to be almost a science, a list of concrete names and dates, unalterably carved into the slate megaliths of the past.  The truth is, history is more of an art.  The goal of the historian is to look at events much like an abstract artist would deconstruct a landscape before setting it onto canvas.  Squint real hard at the historical events and some of your preconceived notions and prejudices begin to fade away from view and maybe for a fraction of a second you can see things through the eyes of those who lived with them. 

Oral history is setting down someone's stories on paper for use as a historical source. To some, oral history is a subordinate form of history.  After all, as we all know, the human memory is fallible (but don't tell my husband that I admitted that!).  Things aren't always as black or white as we perceive them and sometimes we make snap judgments based on our own feelings or circumstances regardless of the grander context.  Take, for example, the story of a wealthy girl who lived through the depression in the 1930s in a beautiful mansion on a bustling uptown street filled with other great mansions.  Perhaps this girl never even realized there was a depression, surrounded by others of like means and with no interest in newspapers or radio broadcasts when she could be riding her bike to the beach.  Does her ambivalence about the Great Depression make her memories of carefree childhood summers any less valuable or valid? 

This question can be tricky, it relies upon us to make a judgement call regarding what is important and what isn't.  Because the vast majority of people were struggling throughout the thirties, can we write off her experiences?  What if she was remembering wrong, and the summers she recalled were actually from the early 1940s?  Oral history requires we reexamine our motives for studying history and the methods we use to distinguish what is valuable in a source. 

There has been a resurgence in the past several years with the establishment of organizations like the Association for Personal Historians and other consultants and even historical societies that are using oral history interviews to enrich our understanding of the past through extensive analysis of these personal stories, memories and experience. 

When it comes down to it, we research history to understand more about the human experience and all of these stories are a part of this experience that connects us throughout time.  They remind us that people are truly individual, but even so, we're all similar despite our circumstances. 

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Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Getting Started With Organization

The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.
— Marcus Aurelius

We have talked about how setting goals can help propel your family history research, but there is another hurdle that can interfere with your trajectory: disorganization.  Yes, I said it.  And I already know that when you read that word you let out a groan of frustration.  We're researchers, not organizers! 

In the heat of the moment, the excitement of the hunt for details, facts and information about our ancestors, it can be all to easy to just hit print thirty times and leave the stack of papers sitting in a stack on our desk (...or the floor, or the dining room table).  Then, weeks later, you know you printed it... somewhere? In this stack? In that? In the closet? Maybe you ought to check the accordian binder your significant other bought you out of frustration with the stacks of paper in every corner of the counter, the table (and even, you are embarrassed to admit, under your bed)! But, let's be real, when was the last time you used that accordian binder? Would you even be able to fit half of your papers in there? Probably not. 

January is National Organization Month, and a great time to use that New Year Resolution motivation your feeling help you get your genealogy information organized.  

For the month of January we're going to start a weekly series called The Organized Genealogist, we're going to cover some simple measures you can take to get and keep your genealogy information organized. 

Research Trip to Sherburne History Center


I'm a bit shocked that this was my first time visiting the Sherburne History Center, but it was! I was stunned by the beautiful facility, and the staff was very friendly and helpful.  Their materials were very well organized and easy to find.

I can't say enough good things about this place!  I'm sure I'll be back there again soon to collect more information.

Have you ever visited a local historical society?  What was your experience?