It has been a while since I’ve been able to devote any serious time to my investigations into my family history. High on the list of priorities is learning Slovak and improving my Hungarian, so that I can do research on the only other theologian that I am aware of in my family’s history. Joszef Repaszky was the canon of Kosice cathedral in the 19th century and the author of quite a few books as well as a regular contributor to the Hungarian-language newspaper Catholic World. The great thing is that, if and when I can make some serious progress on the relevant languages, this ‘hobby’ interest of mine could actually serve as a subject for my scholarly research!
Let me praise the wonders of the internet. Although one should be wary of trusting ‘ready-made’ genealogies found online, there really are some fantastic resources available (not to mention the many more one can gain access to through local family history centers – a fact that has given me a greater appreciation for the Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead!). Although I vaguely hoped that I might one day see it, I never thought I would find online my great-great-great-grandmother’s grave online for me to find – yet there it is! Even though I am not yet quite able to read them, in order to gain access to some of Joszef Repaszky’s books, I didn’t have to spend my time in the ancient books collection of the single library in Slovakia that still has copies. I merely had to hire a genealogist, who went to the archive, photographed the books, and sent me the digital photos on CDs. If and when I do get to Slovakia to do family history research, I can use my time more usefully than sitting taking pictures or making copies. (Many thanks to the genealogist in question, Juraj Cisarik, whose services I can certainly recommend).
I would love to teach a course that incorporated family history. My research, including interviewing relatives, has influenced my scholarly work in other ways, since I am currently interested in the role of eyewitness testimony and oral tradition in the study of the historical Jesus. There is nothing like doing actual ‘field work’, even in relation to a personal rather than professional interest, to demonstrate both the impressive ability of oral tradition to preserve information, and the potential for not only oral tradition but even eyewitness testimony to be unreliable, even when garnered from honest, well-intentioned persons.