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Ancestral Steampunk

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

In the attic I have a small metal device that I inherited from my grandparents. It is a square box, open above and wider than it is tall. On top, there is a cage on hinged rods that run from the middle of the box to one side of the cage that allow the cage […]

Reconstructing the Post-War World

Monday, April 25th, 2011

This is the last of a three part look at the Civil War 150 years after it began. The first part was The Census Goes to War the second part can be found at Seven Score and Ten. The aftermath of the war brought a wealth of genealogical information in the form of pension applications. […]

A Measure of Confusion

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

One of those bits of reverse culture-shock that I have experienced since returning to the U.S. after twenty years abroad has to do with measurement. After years of only needing to think about the metric system’s factors of ten, it was time to try to remember all the factors of 3, 4, 6, 12, 16 […]

A Tale of Three Blizzards

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Like many people in the central United States, I’ve spent the last few days digging out. Clearing two feet of snow is a workout. This storm was a few inches short of being the worst in Chicago’s history. That title still belongs to the Blizzard of ’67. One weather forecaster made an interesting observation in […]

A Ripple that Spread on this Side of the Pond

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

I just ran across a year-old copy of American Heritage magazine. It is a history magazine not a genealogy magazine but history and genealogy continuously impact each other. What has happened affected and was affected by the relationships between the people to whom it happened. In this particular issue (winter 2010) there are thirty-five articles […]

When Witches Said neither “Trick” nor “Treat”

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Now that my Star Wars and Harry Potter characters have gathered their last preHalloween harvest of candy corn and caramels and are fast asleep, I find my mind turning to a time when ghosts, goblins and witches were a much more serious business than my children’s Halloween costumes or a snaggletoothed grin on a jack-o-lantern. […]

You Never Know Who Is Hiding in those Details

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Yesterday, I was looking at a roll of microfilm. All I was trying to do was locate a will and get a list of grandchildren that I thought I would find there. This will I knew would be buried in the minutes of town council meetings. Eventually, after stumbling upon a few useful tidbits in […]

Making History

Monday, September 27th, 2010

History is a fluid thing. The past is whatever was once the present—whatever once happened. The past does not change but history changes. New evidence is found. Old evidence is reevaluated, old biases are removed and new ones often take their place. We may overemphasize something to correct for all the years it was ignored. […]

What’s Hiding in a Place?

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Though we think of hope as something for the future and memory as something of the past, they are entwined and entangled. Our dreams are imprinted by our past and our memories are shaped by our desires. Hope springs eternal, so the saying goes, and eternity is not only the future, it also includes the […]

A Memory Trip Down Any Lane

Monday, June 14th, 2010

A few days ago, I was chatting with an architect and he mentioned how useful Sanborn Maps are for historical preservation. I said something about having looked at them and we chatted a bit more and I started describing some details that I’d seen in the maps. Eventually, I could tell something suddenly clicked. He […]

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