Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Not notable enough for Wikipedia- therefore forgotten?

The units of history are customarily measured with the actions of the "Great men"- the big events. There is some truth in the common view that without these giants of history we would not be who we are or have the kind of lives we have. At Familypedia, we recognize that this view obscures the contribution of everyday people, and that history is composed of huge numbers of mostly anonymous individuals making small actions. Yet these are small actions only from the perspective of a mass audience. Amongst these "small actions" include the crucial decision to have a family- an act which if not taken would mean our inexistence. So from a microhistorical point of view, these individuals are fundamentally more important than the "great men" could ever be to us. What we do here renders the lives of these forgotten individuals less anonymous. The internet is about micro audiences and for the audience of the descendants of these individuals, their microhistories are hardly insignificant.

Typical genealogies are concerned with statistics concerning individuals. This is a first step, but simple tabular information does little to restore these ancestors from anonymity and in some respects only reinforces it. Are these histories of broad interest? Maybe some of the untold stories will gain a wide audience, but one thing is certain: each and every story will have a guaranteed audience in perpetuity amongst the descendants of that individual. Why now and not before? Until recently, the massive numbers of such Microhistorical stories could not be feasibly produced or would have overwhelmed data systems. Today, with plummeting costs of mass storage and collaboration possible due to the internet this endeavor is now within reach for a global audience.

The article each of us write today about an ancestor may not be about a figure of great importance to everyone, but it will be about a person of crucial importance to you, and to everyone else who is that person's descendant. Who knows when- some descendant will read what you have contributed and will benefit from your work.

Examples of such family microhistories at Familypedia:

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