Another sad loss today. David Hey may not have been a film or a pop super star, but he in his own way made a significant impact on how we see our family history.
Traditionally academic historians tend to be less focused on unimpressive patriotic narratives: they argue that they very often tend to glorify the people or individuals and so therefore define genealogy and family history as amateur.
But see it my way, what does researching vital information from primary sources actually achieve? It gives us a chronological timeline of dates relating to births, marriage and finally the deaths of an individual.
And it gets worse, some academic historians prefer to see stories from the past supported and validated by external sources and therefore will relegate events prior to written history: ‘prehistory’. The effect of this is that stories common to particular cultures, social backgrounds or from people who did not have a written history: where it could be argued are the majority of the population, whose stories and lives are not supported by external sources.
Therefore, their pasts could be considered as folk law or legend, effectively dismissing the pasts of the people who walked this earth before us. You can see why I was booted of the history course at school now!
David Hey introduced the concept of family history where we acutely contextualise the past and to venture beyond the names on their family trees to find out more about the places and times in which their ancestors lived. Suddenly people were give a lens, a device that can understand the voices that are not heard, the voices who want to speak: the very same voices that allow ordinary people to make history, and to see the past and gain an understanding into how our ancestors lived.
Therefore, by understanding our family past, we can define ourselves, our identity and our place in this world.
Rest in peace David Hey….