What has caused HistoryOwl to evolve?

In pre-digital times, there were only two species of owl. The first were the sort that sat in trees and said "too-wit too-woo". Well, strictly speaking (according to the Wildlife Trust), a male said twit and the female (he hoped) responded with twoo. There were many sub-species of these for which you'd need to visit the Natural History Museum to find out more.

Ural Owl

Image: Ural Owl courtesy of https://pixabay.com/users/erik_karits-15012370/

The second species were those folk with owl-rimmed glasses who spent far too much of their misspent youth in dusty libraries searching for the answers to life's big questions such as - who was my great grandfather? Answers were scrawled on pieces of paper and stuffed into overflowing foolscap files to be pored over.

Portrait of Aesthetic manThen along came the internet and the owl-rimmed glasses were re-directed towards a computer screen instead of the inside of a book. Although the Web developed out of military research in the USA during the Cold War, its principle of allowing almost instantaneous sharing of data could quite legitimately have been designed specifically for family historians trying to find relatives across the globe. The rest is history, except perhaps it isn't. 


The possibilities are almost endless in terms of the information available out there but it is a complex landscape fraught with duplication; siloing on different websites - both paid and free; and indexing of varying quality. Sometimes its very authenticity can be difficult to verify. An army of amateur genealogists have joined the band of professional researchers who have been around both B.I. and A.I. (Before Internet and After Internet). Without their efforts, particularly in the area of indexing and as custodians of local history in their communities, we would all be in a much poorer position.

Shaftesbury, England

Shaftesbury, England courtesy of https://pixabay.com/users/fietzfotos-6795508/

Going back to the original question, it is these amateur genealogists who are the evolved descendents of the owl-rimmed glasses species of owls, aka "History Owls".


But the story is not necessarily over yet. Here we are in the middle of a global pandemic and the nature of work and working has changed before our very eyes. I have been working from home for several years, something that was not possible to do in previous times in my industry. As companies reflect upon the value of servicing expensive office space and commuters save thousands in season ticket fares, there has to be a strong possibility that working from home will become the norm rather than the exception. Amateur genealogists have much to contribute in this space and I believe we can build a stronger community by putting researchers in touch by creating an online digital community space for that purpose. That is what HistoryOwl is all about. It will give all of us researchers a wider range of options when we need to get help, with DIY-research ceasing to be the only viable route open to the majority of people. If that increases the volume of historical research conducted, it can lead to more connections between people trying to find out about the history of their family or community. Anyone who's been doing this for a while has experienced the excitement of receiving information from a distant relative whom they were previously unaware of the existence of. The opportunity to add such colour and richness to our research more easily has to be welcome. 

Whether it will evolve in the way I am anticipating remains to be seen, but nevertheless it's an exciting prospect to watch it from my vantage point - as a Digital HistoryOwl sitting in my tree looking at my computer monitor.