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The Census Goes to War

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

As the anniversary of the start of the American Civil War draws near, I thought I might write a post or two about the traces that war left in our documents. Why exactly the war was fought is, like many historical questions, more complex than people generally assume. Yet it is hard to escape the […]

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 […]

Taking Walks with the Census Taker and my Dad

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

I’ve been preparing a new talk about maps and one of the things I will discuss is using Sanborn Maps. I have the images for my father’s home town from a few years before he was born. I also have the census that was taken a few months after he came into the world. Censuses […]

Presidents’ Day

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

I started out to write a post about George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s families in honor of Presidents’ Day. I soon learned that just defining what is meant by “Presidents’ Day” is not so easy. Presidents’ Day The Federal holiday this Monday is officially called Washington’s Birthday, remembering his birthday of February 22nd. Oddly, when […]

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 […]

A Line to Draw the Time

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Timelines can be a great tool for genealogy. Timelines of general history give a quick overview and put events into their proper sequence. They can point out things in the sweep of history that may have influenced an ancestor. They can provide a quick-to-grasp framework for further understanding. Making your own timelines can crystallize thoughts […]

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. […]

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