In our concentration with the past, family historians often forget how history is being made today. This highly technological world allows us to experience events as they happen many of which affect our own families.
We had the great pleasure of seeing our granddaughter dance at a prestigious ballet competition in Hong Kong this past week – LIVE! This was the Asian Grand Prix where over 300 young people came together from all over the world to show their excellence in ballet.
Not only could we watch them all dance we got to experience the joy of our granddaughter when she was awarded the Bronze Medal in her age category of 13 to 14 year-olds.
This is the age of Facebook, live streaming, Skype and WeChat, terms completely unknown to our parents (and barely understandable by many people my age). From the comfort of our living room in Calgary, Canada we saw the dance performances in Hong Kong, over 6,500 miles away and 14 hours ahead, in Real Time! We got to see and share this piece of family history happen with many other family members, in their own homes, at the same time.
Our parents, who raised their families when home television was developing, would have appreciated seeing such an event as it was happening. They understood live broadcasts even in the 1950s. I remember watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, transmitted via undersea cables. That was a day that changed television history itself. Since that time we have witnessed thousands of similar major historical events unfold as they occurred in all parts of the globe.
I remember when my parents were able to come out to my schools and other venues when I received awards and other certificates of recognition, as well as when I performed in various concerts. These were important times of sharing experiences. My grandparents could never make it because they lived so far away. Copies of what photos that might have been taken were mailed to them instead along with those old fashioned letters people used to write.
We are way past letters, even telephones. Messages are transmitted instantly via electronic means (with all their spelling, grammar, punctuation and construction errors and often without thought given to how the words might be received).
It does give one pause to think how such immediate communication might be viewed by ancestors from several generations back. There were times when news from one family member to another might take weeks to travel from place to place – months if they lived across an ocean from each other. The telegraph allowed short notes to be sent between localities that could then be delivered by hand to recipients. It was slow, expensive and did not allow the exchange of much news.
The late 19th century saw telephone usage expand around the globe although many families could not avail themselves of the technology, again because of cost and infrastructure. Eventually phones were everywhere which must have affected letter-writing activities.
Today we have “smart phones” – instruments capable of exchanging voices, written communications, images, videos and all manner of other data. We are able to visit with family and experience their joy and achievement no matter where they are in the world. Our gadgets can do complex calculations as well as entertain us with the latest movies. I am quite sure my 6th great-grandparents, living in the 18th century, would never have been able to even comprehend the idea.
These modern tools allow us to search historical records quickly and easily as we follow our genealogical research leads. Just as importantly they let us see for ourselves what our children and grandchildren are doing and saying. And they get to share important moments in their lives with some of their ancestors (us) like no generation has ever been able to do.
So for us to be able to live stream a dance competition – even though it was at 2:00 in the morning – was very exciting. We got to see family history being made live.
Wouldn’t it be neat if we could look back a few centuries and see in a similar fashion how our ancestors’ lives were unfolding and share in their moments of achievement?