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Myth and Meaning

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Pushing the Limits

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

There is something special about those times when records don’t simply stop but fade. Times long enough ago that identity was seen differently. A man is not known by two names but by one name and the place where he lived. When his child was born, all that was recorded was the date, his given […]

If April Showers Bring Mayflowers…

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

It is that time of year when children’s thoughts veer from pumpkins to Pilgrims to prancing hooves in rapid succession. Genealogical research won’t put a jack-o-lantern or a flying reindeer into their family trees but what about a Pilgrim? Through a child’s eyes, the level of reality is about the same and, even to many […]

Royal Heralds and Simple Harolds

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

I never thought that I would ever use the heraldic visitations. Heraldry has that sort of “gravitational” attraction that always makes me somewhat uneasy. People have been known to make up heraldic arms for profit. Some think that there are “family coats of arms” and that everyone has one. People claim or are misled to […]

Transience and Permanence

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

After a long day of triangulating families in Griffith’s Valuation, I needed a break and managed to take my first somewhat long bike ride of the year. I took a route that I have taken many times before. The deep forest and the slow-flowing river give a sense of timeless permanence. They were there like […]

Rootedness

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Why is genealogy becoming more popular? There are some trivial, if important reasons—the Internet makes it easier to get started, software makes keeping track of progress easier, those sorts of things. Sometimes when talking to people, I realize another reason is often sitting just below the surface. We are generally becoming less rooted. We no […]

The Sense of Self

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

I’ve just run across a study done a few years ago. It touches on thoughts about family history and our sense of self that I have had for a long time, but goes beyond them and shows how family stories affect a child’s development. In 2005 scientists at Emory University’s Center on Myth and Ritual in […]

Learning from Family History

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

What does family history teach us? What do we learn from it? One thing that it can do is to teach us about life in ways we find hard to dismiss. There are many hypotheses about why people love fiction. Many of those ideas probably contribute to the full answer. Fiction can be an escape […]

Conserving Ancestors

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

A few weeks ago I was looking at a photograph with a client. It isn’t your ordinary snapshot. It measures about one foot by three feet. It is also about one hundred years old. It also had a problem. It has been rolled up in a cardboard tube for decades and is now both a […]

Can You Ever Really Return?

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

I was just looking back over the post I wrote almost exactly a year ago. I had taken a twenty mile bike ride with my daughter and written about how the speed we traveled and the nature we saw made me think about how my ancestors would have seen this part of the country as […]

Immortality, Genealogy and Technology

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Two things happened to me the other day that prompted some thinking. I heard an ad for a BBC radio play about a fictional meeting between Thomas Edison and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Edison wished to record the aged Tennyson reciting some of his famous poems, such as The Charge of the Light Brigade. Tennyson wavered […]

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