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Thinking about the Thingamabobs

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

The story of one part of the life of an ancestor of mine comes from his son’s obituary. It is the brief but interesting story of a long pioneering journey. It is also clearly wrong. Not so wrong as to be worthless, there are plenty of good clues but there is, for example, an obvious […]

Sketching Sketchy Sources

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Ever wish you could just glance at a record and get an overview of what it means? Or for that matter, what about looking at several documents and see how they might fit together? Or clash? Or see that there is a real puzzle to solve? The more data one accumulates the harder it can […]

Hinting at the Facts

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. —Henry David Thoreau Reading old genealogical works can be an almost mystical experience. Not mystical with a capital “M” as in a […]

What’s the Antimatter

Monday, June 10th, 2013

The other night my daughter borrowed the movie Angels & Demons and wanted to watch it with me. Part of the plot hinges on the theft of a container of antimatter from CERN, the particle physics laboratory outside Geneva, Switzerland. I think she wanted to get my reaction to the physics. Antimatter is in some […]

Call me Ishmael part 2

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

(continued from Call me Ishmael) Ethnicity Names almost automatically preserve information about ethnicity. A given name might be used in many countries but its precise form might be unique to an ethnic group. Surnames often have very local origins or are dependent on the language spoken by the people who created them. A “Smith” is […]

Content or Context?

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

I remember hearing a story years ago of a man who sat in an archive, in Spain or perhaps Portugal, sniffing documents. He was trying to detect the subtle, lingering sent of vinegar. Why? Long ago people attempted to prevent the spread of disease by sprinkling mail with vinegar. A letter might claim “we are […]

A Word from their Sponsors

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Do you have any ancestors that seem to be the end of the line? Forebears that resist every effort to discover enough to go back any further? Try working on someone else. No, I don’t mean give up. I mean work on someone who seems suspicious, someone who seems to be associated with your ancestor. […]

Clues to Clues

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Do you ever read compiled genealogies? Your answer is probably “yes” and if it isn’t, it probably should be. Part of doing research is understanding what has already been done. Once you know what has been done the next step is to figure out if it has been done right. The next step is not […]


Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Duckument* (n) – papers that reveal a terrible error. Origin- derived from the Cold War civil defense phrase “duck and cover” combined with the word document. Genealogists encountering a duckument are advised to hide beneath their desks until they come to terms with the duckument’s implications. Classification of Duckuments Duckuments are found in three types- […]

Tall Tales

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

When I started being interested in my family history one of the things my aunt taught me was that sometimes family stories turn out to be wrong. It was an easy lesson for her to teach. The family story that had most fascinated me was something that she proved to be untrue. That story had […]

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