Wednesday, 9 July 2014
Tour de Yorkshire, de France, de Sky is the limit?
Last weekend the Tour de France came to Yorkshire. It was an amazing couple of days after months of build up and excitement but it lived up to all of the hype.
Watching live as the cyclists made their way across the Dales though, it made me think about how amazing it is that such an event can be watched by so many millions of people from the comfort of their own homes.
The first Tour was staged in July 1903, six months before the first flight by the Wright brothers in December 1903. News still took a long time to travel, the idea of being able to sit in your home and watch such an event live was unimaginable.
In 1903, many people still rarely left their own locality. Certainly over the preceding century, inventions like the bicycle and steam trains had made travel seem far more possible but the idea of living in one part of the country and working in another (just for a day at a time!) would not have seemed sane! As for regular international travel....
For family historians, that tendency to stick to one's locality can be very helpful when we are looking for clues. If confronted with a list of names on a genealogy website, knowing a little about possible location for the family can be very helpful. Especially if you don't have the inclination to wade through what can be thousands of possible matches! [This week, I was looking for a person named "Josiah Lloyd". Naively I thought it seemed relatively unusual and would not take me long. Well, 156 Josiah Lloyds later....]
Of course, locality can also be a hindrance; for example, if a family have stayed and expanded in an area, it becomes very difficult to disentangle many relations all bearing the same names. One of my tree names is Gidney - a name apparently so common in Norfolk that my joy at finding my William Gidney's military record quickly disappeared. It has proved, so far, to be a major brickwall!
To quote the marvellous Carrie Bradshaw, "I couldn't help but wonder"... at the weekend. If families now are spreading internationally so easily, when in 1903 they may not have even ventured fifty miles, what will happen if we do ever properly make it into space? [On proper Star Trek ships that people can walk about on, of course, far more sensible...]
Presumably, record keeping will have to take account of a whole new strata of birthplaces and the genealogist will have to plan space travel rather than library visits. It may seem to be in the realms of the fantastic, but if you had said to the founder of the Tour in 1903 that in just over one hundred years from now, his race would be a global phenomenon, I expect he would have said the same.