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Memorial Day

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Memorial Day has just come and gone. I took my kids for a bike ride to the nearby cemetery. There, four of their great-grandparents, one great-great-grandparent and several of their great aunts and uncles lie buried. The main family plot is easy enough for me to find but one of my uncles is buried elsewhere […]

Family Stories, Ethnic Traditions and Easter Witches

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

This last Thursday, my children did what they always do on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). They put on old skirts and aprons. They each put their hair up in a kerchief. They each got a basket, a toy cat and a broom. With a little makeup they became “Easter Witches.” Then they did […]

That Flash of Recognition

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I suppose everyone has had the experience of learning something new and suddenly that little fact seems to pop up everywhere. That experience has just happened to me again, so I’ve been inspired to write about it. A few posts back I wrote about This Republic of Suffering, about death and dying in mid-nineteenth century […]

This Republic of Suffering

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

As family historians we are always trying to gather facts and tie them together into lives. Though every event we can document is important, there are three that get most of the attention, birth, marriage and death. All three are surrounded by practices and rituals unique to their time and culture. Birth and death bracket […]

Anachrotopia

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

What makes a place a place? While writing A Very Porous Border I couldn’t help but think about what we mean by the concept of a place and, after that post, the natural example for me to use comes from the two largest countries in North America. Today we take the existence of Canada and […]

A Very Porous Border

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Watching the Vancouver Olympics, it seems quite natural to both cheer and be excited both for your country and for whoever turns in a great performance. Sometimes we confine ourselves to our national borders, other times an amazing achievement transcends any man-made boundaries. Searching for the history of our families can also be a time […]

Veterans Day

Monday, November 16th, 2009

I wonder how many people remember why we have Veterans Day when we do.  After years of war, on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” the guns fell silent on the Western Front and for all practical purposes, World War I—The Great War, the War to End All Wars—came to […]

Memphis, 1878

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I just finished reading one of those books that can open the eyes to a bit of history that is not so well known. The title of the book, The American Plague, refers to the disease yellow fever. Like many diseases that no longer torment us, we don’t realize the justifiable horror that our ancestors […]

Locusts on the Plains

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Is it easy to recognize historical reality versus that charming “tall tale” exaggeration that was (and still is) so common? “Streets of gold”, for example, were certainly exaggeration. Other exaggerations can be nearly as obvious. Some cases, though, can require research and careful thought to determine if they can be taken at face value or […]

Space-Time for Family Historians

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

I just gave my talk “Space-Time for Family Historians- Time warps and curved space aren’t just for physicists” for the first time at my local genealogy society meeting (Lake County Illinois Genealogical Society). I had a lot of fun with it and I have to admit that by the time people had finished complimenting me […]

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