Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Too Much Trust in Technology

Here again is an article that just reinforces my skepticism about technology. Just imagine the consequences of this!

And, thanks to Eastman's Newsletter for bringing this New York Times article to my attention. Thanks Dick.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Praise of Maps

I just recently returned from a week long research trip to my ancestors’ homes in Nebraska. While there I uncovered new information from local obituaries and cemetery plots. Yet, the truly amazing material came from maps.

It is impossible to describe the absolute thrill of opening a plat map and finding your ancestor’s name attached to a piece of land. There it was, as plain as day: J.H Brubaker, owning 360 acres just a few miles south and west of Angora, Nebraska. Just south of Brubaker was Alice Tiernan, a sister-in-law, with the school house located in the corner or her property.

The family folklore always said that the local ranchers had to provide a schoolhouse and a school teacher for the local children. They were too far from town to commute to and from school. Here was verification, there was the schoolhouse! The family lore went on to say that three brothers each married the new school teacher. It was always hard to keep a teacher because of the warm smile and wily charms of the Brubaker boys. I wonder if this was also true?

Maps are truly a wonderful, and under utilized resource from family history. Locating this land and driving so close to it, has given me a special sense of my family and their lifestyles in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Plat maps, road maps, topographical maps, and birds-eye views are truly amazing and informative resources. And a great thrill to find. Not only can they tell us street names and property names, they can give us a sense of location. These treasures of information can tell us how someone lived by telling us where our ancestors lived. The proximity to cities, or transportation, or education all provide clues and details about the daily lives of our families and our ancestors.