Sunday, October 31, 2010

Personalizing History

If genealogy is good at one thing, it's personalizing history. It gives people today a sense of ownership of yesterday.

This morning, I was browsing TIME magazine, and (being entirely uninterested in the political races which took up most of the issue) read a short article titled "Brief History: Cholera Outbreaks." I got to the line that read "An 1866 New York City epidemic led to the creation of the city's board of health, the first in the U.S.," and my reaction was "That's our cholera epidemic! The one that killed Julia and James Thomas!"

Ownership is probably not the right word, and maybe I shouldn't be using a possessive pronoun. But I felt an immediate sense of recognition, and connection to the epidemic of 1866, as well as a very real awareness that, while an article about historic and current cholera epidemics might seem academic, we're actually talking about real diseases that killed - and continue to kill - real people. Julia was 15 and James Thomas only 2 1/2 when they died.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2 Years

There I was, browsing Twitter idly while trying to convince myself that I really should get up and exercise, or do something productive before too much of this day got away from me, when I was surprised to notice that I was reading the name of my own blog without even taking it in. I did a double take. Sure enough, geneabloggers was wishing me a happy blogiversary! I've been paying so little attention to my blog lately that I hadn't even noticed that the 2-year anniversary of my first post was coming up.

A lot has changed since then. This blog was initially public, then was soon made private, because I thought genealogical information was too identifiable to be shared. Then it was made public again, partially as (often successful) "cousin bait," partially because I wanted to be able to be a part of the genealogy blogging community, partially because I was afraid the password protection was scaring off family who might otherwise enjoy it on a casual basis, and partially because I realized I had to trust that my relatives are all too smart to use their mothers' maiden names as passwords. (Right? You're all too smart for that, right?) I've expanded the family lines I research, having started with my father's maternal ancestors and progressed to the point that I'm now researching all of my ancestral lines - or trying to. (Some are easier than others, as always!) I've met cousins online, collaborated, shared what I know and learned from what they've shared. I've finished grad school, moved to NY, started looking for jobs (anyone know anyone who's hiring at a museum/library/archive in NYC?), gotten engaged, and started planning a wedding. And yes, I've gotten so busy I don't devote as much of my time to genealogy research or genealogy blogging as I'd like to. I hope this is a short-lived condition, and that I'll soon be back to posting more than a couple of times per month.

Thanks for a great two years, friends!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I got feedback on the post Honoring (the wishes of) the Dead, not all of it in the comments, and it seems that everyone thinks I should share. (Of course, everyone who responded is also related to me and the lines I'm researching in some way, and is thus rather invested in outcome.) I have decided that I think I will share  . . . but I will only share something I know. In other words, you'll have to wait until I find a primary source document. (The reference I have is from about 15 years after the fact.) No speculation. It'll take some research, some time, and maybe some money to find the necessary primary source document, but I'll get there eventually. (Maybe not soon. I've got a wedding to plan. Not much of my free time goes to genealogy these days.) I'm also not telling - yet - what branch of my research this relates to. But I promise you, it's not some big scandalous secret. It's fairly mundane, actually. You'll be bored when you find out, trust me. But I'll share.