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Random Thoughts Ruminations

Keeper of Family Lore or Family Historian?

I listened to a fascinating CAFE live conversation between historians Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman the other day. At minute 8 or so they begin to discuss the difference between journalists and historians.

Journalists, they point out, follow the story; they look for facts and find sources to deliver the story. Historians look for facts in primary sources–art, documents, records, newspapers–to find patterns in the past that created change, tracking a story but not always knowing what that story is going to turn out to be.

Journalists tell us what happened. Historians ask “who cares?” and “so what?”

it’s a case of both/and

When my dad declared me “Keeper of the Family Lore” I had no idea how deeply I would travel into the past. The facts led to questions and the questions led to course work and books, which led to more course work and more books. Some 15 years later, I am a citizen archivist and genealogical antiquarian; a history enthusiast and translator of the family lore.

I am drawn to historian folks like Drs. Richardson Cox and Freeman because they have been instrumental in helping me see patterns in the present BECAUSE of their study of patterns in the past. And they motivate me to apply the techniques and processing skills of the historian to find patterns in my genealogical stories.

This blog gives me a platform to connect with other history loving folks. Sometimes I am simply an antiquarian, posting names and dates and timelines for the sheer love of detail. But the posts I most enjoy writing are those with a rich narrative around the facts that answer the “who cares” and “so whats” about my family’s relationships and events.

In this moment I am striving to be a part of a larger conversation that historians are having about our Civil War and Reconstruction era, and how we can use what the nation learned then during this current backlash against expansive democracy. It is a process that is both intriguing and humbling, leading to an ever more liberating understanding of the history behind my family’s lore.

Categories
Random Thoughts Ruminations

The Arrivals

I headed out the door with keys and leash in hand, my tri-colored English Shepherd girl at my heels. A quick car ride later, we are out and about in the (temporarily) pollen-free air of Francis Slocum State Park. The viridescent hills have changed once again as deciduous trees continue their spring fashion show.

“Sweet sweet I’m so sweet” came from first one tree then another; Yellow Warblers in the park!

“Sweet Sweet Canada Canada Canada” sang White-Throated Sparrows, an endearing reminder that my winter buddies are still around.

Burbles and churps pulled my attention skyward and I watched acrobatic maneuvers of Tree Swallows swooping for insects I couldn’t spy.

But wait…that isn’t a white belly. That head isn’t blue-green.

OH!!! Today’s new arrivals were Northern Rough-winged Swallows with their plain brown backs and dusky throats. Darting low over the lake, they snatched today’s hatch and returned for oh-so-brief pauses on wires or snags. My swallow counts for eBird will get a bit tricky now.

I love it all–the wind, the clouds, the song, the flight, the greens. Even the arrival of ticks can’t deter my good mood.