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Archive for August, 2009

Census Relationship Cryptography

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Starting in 1880, the US Federal Census enumerator recorded the relationships within each household relative to the head of the family. What a boon! The child that didn’t quite seem to fit into the family in the 1870 census is now clearly labeled “nephew” in 1880. Eureka! From 1880 onward we can be a bit […]

The Future’s Past

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

One of the most important things to realize when thinking about the past is that there is not only much to learn but also much to forget. What we know blinds us to what we could know. We understand that this or that was different yet fail to see how the world itself was different. […]

A Camera

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Not so long ago, I started using a new camera, the first truly good camera I’ve ever tried. It’s an interesting process getting to know a camera. There are all the buttons and dials, of course, but there is also a lot of just plain experimentation to be done. How will the camera perform under […]

Locusts on the Plains

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Is it easy to recognize historical reality versus that charming “tall tale” exaggeration that was (and still is) so common? “Streets of gold”, for example, were certainly exaggeration. Other exaggerations can be nearly as obvious. Some cases, though, can require research and careful thought to determine if they can be taken at face value or […]

Space-Time for Family Historians

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

I just gave my talk “Space-Time for Family Historians- Time warps and curved space aren’t just for physicists” for the first time at my local genealogy society meeting (Lake County Illinois Genealogical Society). I had a lot of fun with it and I have to admit that by the time people had finished complimenting me […]

A Seemingly Insignificant Place

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I spend a lot of time contemplating what we can actually know about the lives of people from the past and how we can know. When trying to rebuild a person’s experiences, it is important to remember to wonder about the little places. Not just to wonder about them in the sense of realizing that […]

Some Good Fortune with the 1871 Census of Ontario

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Awhile back I got a pleasant surprise. I had ordered a microfilm roll from the 1871 census of Ontario and got more than I realized that I would. I knew that the family I was interested in was on the roll but what I hadn’t realized is that the roll contained not just the population […]

Boltzmann’s Grave

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Ludwig Boltzmann died on September 5, 1906 and was buried in his hometown of Vienna. His monument is dominated by an imposing bushy-bearded bust that stares down glowering. Above that bust is a single line, a mathematical equation first formulated by Boltzmann- S = k log W. Besides the fact that this appears at a […]