family history and genealogy

Tag: history

The Animals in Our Midst

God created Adam, perhaps because He needed something to do. Then He created Eve, because Adam needed something to do, or someone to know. They dwelt in the garden, which was fruitful and lush. All was pleasant there, until that unfortunate incident with the apple, which obliged Adam and Eve to leave the garden and make their way in the wilderness. The forest was dark, cold, and forbidding. Strange terrors lurked there. To still his fears, Adam befriended a wolf. Or perhaps the wolf befriended him. It’s not important how this alliance came about; what matters is that it has endured. Ever since then we have had animals in our midst. Continue reading

Every Story Is Apocryphal

"Family History" by Robert Kehlmann. Sandblasted hand-blown glass, mixed media. By Rkehlmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Family History” by Robert Kehlmann. Sandblasted hand-blown glass, mixed media. By Rkehlmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 If you like to write but lack the gift of unbridled imagination, I have just the thing for you. Family history combines the richness of fiction with the veracity of your daily paper.You don’t have to imagine characters. You don’t have to worry about plot. Just write down those family stories and mix in some genealogy or social history. The stuff practically writes itself. Continue reading

Origins: Chaim Kurdabrin

Chaim Kurdabrin's Arrival Record at Ellis Island

My great-grandfather Chaim Kurdabrin landed at Ellis Island on June 6, 1903, arriving on the S.S. Finland out of Antwerp. I make this statement with reasonable certainty, having located his arrival in records posted online by the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, which also sold me a facsimile of the ship’s manifest. That’s him on the seventh line in the image at the top of this post. Continue reading

My Foot on the Pedal of Progress

Transcription using cylinder phonograph copy. By The drawing is signed, 'Electrical World, N.Y.' [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons I’m celebrating the acquisition of a new piece of electronica—an AltoEdge USB foot pedal. This little gadget connects to my Mac via a USB interface and controls the ExpressScribe software I use to play back my oral history interviews as I transcribe them. The pedal and software combined take the sting out of a difficult job and boost my productivity in a key area of my enterprise. They also provide an object lesson in change, which is the underlying topic of all history. Continue reading

Something Durable and Luminous

Long after my family history is finished, after the writing is done, after my book is published (or not), after all my relatives and I myself are gone, our voices will still be audible in digital recordings. Our words will also be legible, provided anyone takes the trouble to dig through my files. I have no idea how posterity might receive this archive. I’m still grappling with the oddity of this situation in the present. Continue reading

The Geezer’s Version

Ali Baba departed for the town a well satisfied man. By Author Laurence Housman Publisher Bodder and Sloughton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Back in March, I went to a presentation put on by the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta. I only moved to Calgary ten years ago, so my Alberta roots are not deep. I had been wanting to make contact with the local genealogy and family history community, though, and this presentation seemed like a good occasion. I’m glad I went. Dave Obee spoke about resources and techniques for researchers with Eastern European ancestors. Dave is highly accomplished in this field. His bio reveals that he is Editor in Chief of the Times Colonist in Victoria, B.C., and a columnist for Internet Genealogy and Family Chronicle. He has also written more than a dozen books, given over 400 presentations, and holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Victoria for his work as a genealogist and historian. Way to go, Dave! These are stellar achievements.

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Then and Now

I was down in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago for another round of spelunking in the family archives. My explorations were extremely successful. I found scads of old letters, notebooks, calendars, and greeting cards. My grandmother was a terrific archivist, and my mother has preserved everything. Continue reading

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