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Words to the Wise

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Words. They are the smallest unit of meaning. The documents we study, the stories we are told are built up of those units. Little bits of meaning are added to each other until some information is conveyed. To understand that information we need to understand the basic ingredients. Do we always know what those ingredients […]

Dance of the Sources

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Checking sources can be an oddly enjoyable pastime. At least I think so. That is, I both enjoy it and admit that it might be somewhat odd to enjoy it. I think what lies behind a statement is often even more fascinating than the statement itself. Every conclusion has a story behind it, a sort […]

The Shoebox in No-Man’s-Land

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

There is a facet of research that nags at me every so often. The other day was one of those days. Sometimes when we find something, we know exactly what it means. We can almost immediately claim that we understand it fairly well and if we are lucky and thinking clearly, we won’t need to […]

Trying the Not

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Sometimes the path we walk with our ancestors is a bit convoluted. Sometimes that is an understatement. Often we reach a dead end and wonder why. Sometimes, though the path is correct, here and there our clues to our ancestors’ strange trajectories can turn out to be the reddest of herrings. Every virtue has a […]

Pyrrhic Research

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Heinrich Schliemann is not a name that rolls off the English speaking tongue and his name probably doesn’t appear among your ancestors but I think that he has some interesting things to say about the genealogical research we do. Heinrich did research as well, though not genealogical. Even so, he started with oral history, exactly […]

Notes to Self

Monday, November 5th, 2012

As I research I often think of things to do, fragments of plans occur to me, possible research strategies start to form and ideas pop into my head. In short I think of things that I can’t do right at the moment. I probably have that in common with roughly 100% of people who do […]

Mixed Motives

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Last week I brought up motivations. Motives can be important and I don’t mean ours, though they might be important too. I mean our ancestors’ motives. It is a question that gets asked about the accused. Did he have a motive? We ask questions about our ancestors motives all the time. Why did they emigrate? […]

Observations on Mysteries

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

The title for this post is stolen with pride. I’ve been reading Believing is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography), by the director Errol Morris. I knew I had to read the book after hearing several interviews with him that touched on his almost maniacal pursuit of the correct order of a pair of […]

The Surface and the Deep

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

One sailor says to another as they looked out on the ocean, “That’s a lot a water.” The other one replied, “Yep, and that’s just the top of it.” Sometimes we’re awed by the top of the water. We forget that there is more to it than that. To understand the surface, we need to […]


Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Coincidence n 1 : … 2 : the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection. One of the hardest things for the human mind to grasp is that coincidences happen. We are very, very good at seeing patterns. We are very good at seeing connections. […]

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