Concept of Facts

The genealogist’s stock-in-trade is the idea that the facts of the past can be (partially) recovered through research. We stumble when those facts turn out to be slipperier than we thought they would be. As our research takes us further back in time, there is more chance of stumbling. Unless we have specialized knowledge about period and … Read more

CE and BCE

I use CE and BCE rather than AD and BC. Surprisingly, that causes some people pain. They seem to have the idea it’s somehow an assault on Christianity. I don’t have time to argue. I roll my eyes and move on. I first encountered CE and BCE as an undergraduate in the 1970s. I didn’t … Read more

Fallibility of Memory

We genealogists often struggle with memory and its problems. So often, I run into fellow researchers who think the long ago memory of someone who was “there” is fully trustworthy. We saw an extreme example of that a few years on a collaborative website. A certain user made the most outlandish claims, each time attributing … Read more

Hidden History

When I was in college one of my professors said, “Objectivity correlates to a consensual subjectivity.” That statement has some very powerful implications for how we understand the nature of historical research. In genealogy we often see people captivated by long, mythical lines of descent, which they invariably believe were transmitted underground, undocumented, for centuries … Read more

Annales School

“Under the leadership of Fernand Braudel and together with Georges Duby, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Philippe Aries, Jacques le Goff worked his whole life to expand the inheritance of Marc Bloch and the Annales School in general. Part of this inheritance consisted of an emphatic resistance against the traditional history of politics as formed by … Read more