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Are Answers “Out There”?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Whenever we have a problem, a logical thing to wonder is if the solution is “out there”? Depending on the problem, that question can be deeply philosophical and here we can really only skim the surface. Back in my days as a grad student in physics that was something that would come up in late-night […]

Failing Fast

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Trying to fail may sound like a truly odd concept. Trying to do it fast probably sounds even more bizarre, but there is a point to it. When a problem itself is even remotely interesting, the solution is often not something that is easy to find. Many documents might be needed and little shards of […]

The Future of our Present Past

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

It can be wise for the family historian to think a little about the future of the past they are reconstructing in the present. You can read the letters that were once in a box in grandma’s attic. You can look at the photographs found in your uncle’s desk drawer. Those things could be a […]

The Contemplation of Things

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

I was reminded of a wonderful quote this week. I was watching a PBS documentary about the photographer Dorthea Lange who had a copy of it hanging in her studio- The contemplation of things as they are without error or confusion without substitution or imposture is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest […]

Thinking about Thinking

Monday, September 8th, 2014

I just watched an interesting video. It was not at all about family history and yet it was one of those times when the parallels jumped out at me. The speaker was a philosopher that discussed a story known as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the idea of metacognition, that is, thinking about thinking. Whether […]

A Man of Letters

Monday, September 1st, 2014

I’ve been translating Swedish letters lately and I’m struck by the personalities. Most letters from more than a century ago start with the discussion of health. It seems to be a general feature of letters in the western world at that time. There is the boilerplate proclamation of good health and the question about the […]

While the Shutter is Closed

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Sometimes one hears that the census is like getting a snapshot of a family taken every ten years. The time between “exposures” does change from place to place but many countries have settled into the once per decade pattern. In the U.S. state censuses can sometimes be used to cut the time that the shutter […]

Once I’m a Distant Ancestor and Blogiversary V

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Last year at this time, I wondered when my “tradition” of starting my blogiversary post with a short real post and then a few thoughts on my favorite posts from the past year would become an official tradition. Well, I think at year five of this blog, I need to admit that it is a […]

Painting Your Ancestors into a Corner

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Some ancestors make life easy on us. They can be found in record after record. Their names are clearly written and spelled in a way that makes sense. They seem always to be recorded with enough extra information to really be sure that they are who we think they are. Some ancestors seem to refuse […]

It’s 10 p.m. Do You Know Where You Are Researching?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

When I lived in France and before I had kids, I had a large map of Europe that I mounted on a sheet of corrugated cardboard. I had it hanging on the wall and every time I visited a new place, I stuck a pin into that spot. To add a bit of information, I […]

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