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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Monday, 12 January 2015

Embrace the Cliche

Oh dear, it is too long since I posted here.  I am afraid that I rather lost my confidence, ironically after doing a writing course!  It all seemed a bit too earnest and just would not flow.  Then Christmas, family emergencies, etc etc and I am completely out of the habit.

Funnily enough, one of my planned posts was about clichés in family history.  And now I have almost fallen into the cliché of the blog which is soon abandoned.  So January 2015 sees a fresh push to make sure that I write regularly at least.

The cliché idea came from watching The Great Interior Design Challenge.  I was outraged that some classic items (see picture!) incorporated by a competitor were referred to by the rather smug judges as "design clichés".  When is it a cliche rather than good design or good taste?  It made me wonder about the cliché in general.  Good old Wikipedia yielded these gems in reference to the word...

A cliché or cliché is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel...

The term is frequently used in modern culture for an action or idea that is expected or predictable, based on a prior event....

There is a widely mentioned story that Michael Parkinson's ancestors were investigated by Who Do You Think You Are? and that they were considered too boring for a programme to be made about them.  Who knows whether this is true?!  The story has done the rounds for years. 

If it was true, though, is this the cliché of modern family history?  Do we need to discover something unusual to make our family history seem more original, more noteworthy?  Is it a cliché to find that your family have people in service, people ending up in the workhouse, farmers?  What makes these people any less interesting?  They had humdrum existences - but don't we all?

I do believe that Who Do You Think You Are? is a fabulous programme which has done much to improve the image of family history as a hobby but, as I have written before, I do worry that it has caused us to believe a) that it is an easy hobby and everyone can quickly get back centuries on their family lines and b) that we should have unrealistic expectations of what our ancestors were, mostly, up to.  Not just a working person - a campaigning trade unionist!  Not just a soldier - a soldier present at an historic event!

I myself do have the added factor of Anglo Indian lines.  These are fascinating in many ways.  However, upon closer examination, the actual people fell mostly into the Anglo Indian "cliché" - they were railway drivers, telegraph operators, civil servants, all striving to maintain the British Empire whilst not fully being accepted by their wholly white rulers.  For generations, they can be seen to be "expected or predictable based on a prior event [ie their birthstatus]".

We should be proud of whomever we discover on our family trees.  One thread is just thread on its own.  It takes many threads to make a tapestry and that is how we should view our family trees.  And therein lies another cliché but hey....

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