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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 […]

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 […]


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 […]

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