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Research Mindset

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It’s About-Time

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Genealogists spend much of there existence in “about-time,” that time that is neither known nor unknown, that twilight between mystery and understanding. Yet about-time doesn’t need to be as mysterious as it often seems. There is usually some information hiding behind the word “about.” Perfect-World Type of About-Time Where do we find “about 1811” in […]

“If Any” and The Null Hypothesis

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

There is a concept in statistical testing called “the null hypothesis.” It would be somewhat difficult to perform experiments on our ancestors to check statistically what records they would leave behind under different conditions and learn the probabilities of those records being preserved to our time. Simply put, we can’t do statistical tests on our […]

Genealogical Illusions

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

We don’t actually experience reality. We experience our model of reality plus some immediate sensory inputs. The inputs serve not just to fill in the immediate holes in our model but also to update the model as well. That sounds a lot like research. We gather information until we can build up a model of […]

Spam! Spam! Spam!

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Ancestors, everyone has them, and spam, everyone gets it. So, I hope you’re asking yourself, where’s the connection, beside the ubiquity, that is. A lot of the spam that I have gotten lately is of what I think of as the “Dear Loyal Walmart Shopper” variety. You can send a message with that opening to […]


Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

When everything is connected to everything else, for better or for worse, everything matters. Bruce Mau I ran into that quote a few days ago. Bruce Mau is a designer and architect, not a genealogist, but this is one of those concepts that genealogist need to consider. We often think about researching an ancestor. We […]

Crumbs & Threads

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

I think there is a certain beauty in hanging by a thread. So often research fades out. We try harder and harder to find just that little bit more about that one mysterious ancestor. We might turn up a crumb here and a crumb there. Nothing dramatic but a few minor, if pleasant, details of […]

A Face in the Crowd

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Oftentimes we research honed in on a single person. That is the genealogical norm. True, many of us have multiple ongoing bits of research but we are still researching individuals, one here, one there but individuals nonetheless. Any one person comes into focus sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Sometimes that way of working takes us nowhere. […]

Working at Cross Purposes

Monday, July 27th, 2015

I’ve been reading the book How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordon Ellenberg. Toward the end of the book, he briefly picked up one of my favorite themes, working to disprove hypotheses.  He started of with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald- The test of a first-rate intelligence is the […]


Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Being unsure is a pretty common thing in genealogy. It is an inherent part of research to be uncertain and to work to reduce the uncertainty. One of the things that can go wrong in research is to forget to have doubts. Usually the uncertainty we have is because we suspect we might have the […]

One Document to Rule Them All

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

The title of this post you might recognize as being stolen from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring but the subject matter is actually stolen from biology. Scientifically describing a new species is an exacting endeavor. Ideally, one has an entire specimen of the new organism that can be used for study […]

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