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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Long Time...No Post...

Okay, so it's been awhile. What can I say? The summer was pretty busy....and the nice weather we had in western Pennsylvania made it hard to be inside doing genealogy. Here's a recap of what's been done and been going since I last posted.

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The whole family took a two week drive out to Yellowstone and back. It was awesome and we saw so many great and unique sites. We were also able to drive through eastern Montana, in the McCone County area, where some of my great grandmother's cousins (Coburn, Vondette and Seeley) homesteaded in the 1910's and 1920's. That must have been something to live back then out there. I can only imagine. Of course this is after they had already homesteaded on the Saskatchewan prairie in sod houses, no less. Amazing lives some people live!

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I am descended from Robert Seeley who immigrated to this country in 1630. The Seeley Genealogical Society (see their website here, they are a terrific family organization, doing so much research on the family) had their international meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan this year. I wish I could have gone, but was just not able to. However, in their announcements of what was going on at the meeting, I saw a lecture by  Carol Seeley Scott about her book, The Eel Catcher's Travels: Robert Seeley 1602-1667. (see it at Amazon here)
I immediately bought the book and enjoyed it so very much. It uses all the facts that we know about Robert Seeley, which is a lot actually, and then it creates a historical fiction describing his life. It really brings the person alive for you. If you are descended from Robert Seeley, I would highly recommend this book.

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If you didn't catch any of the episodes of Who Do You Think You Are, you missed out. See if you can find them to watch. They were quite enjoyable, if they do make genealogy look very easy. But some of the blogs around do have articles pointing out how many (sometimes hundreds) hours of research goes into those episodes. Right now I'm enjoying Genealogy Roadshow on PBS. It just started this week and you can find it on the PBS website. Very interesting concept!

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I've been diving back into research and plugging along on my project to enter everything into my genealogy program. Now if only I didn't have to work for a living.... :)

Happy Researching!


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Well, I just caught up with the last episode of Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems podcast, and she read my email on the air about my blog! So I thought I better get on over here and write a post. It's a rainy day, luckily, otherwise I'd be outside.

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We've been quite busy lately with the nice weather, and we are getting prepared for our driving trip from Pennsylvania to Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to fit too much genealogy into this trip. Most of my family stopped at Michigan and Indiana. However, some brothers and sisters of my great great grandmother, Sylvia Cobin Seeley Larue, did homestead for some time in McCone County, Montana in the 1910's and beyond. This was after they homesteaded in Saskatchewan. They must have been an adventurous lot! I hope to stop in Circle, Montana, to see the town where they lived. Maybe we can catch a cemetery as well.

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Today was my kids last day of school. What fun for them! The whole summer is now theirs. I wish I had the summer off to do some things, like genealogy. Too bad that I am even more busy in the summer with everything to do outside, plus work and anything else inside. Hopefully will get to some family and genealogy research.

Hope you have more time to do genealogy than I do right now.

Happy Hunting...


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Friday, May 3, 2013

What is Genealogy to You?

I know, know....been busy, but I'm trying.

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Have you ever laid awake at night thinking about genealogy? That's why my wife advises me to not look at genealogy too close to bed; sort of like caffeine, it just keeps me up. All the things that I need to look for churning around in my head. Trying to figure out some brick wall or road block.

But the worst things are when I think about the pictures or bibles or documents that are out there and I don't have. Maybe they are known artifacts which someone has, but are unwilling to provide me. Maybe they are artifacts which I know existed, but can't locate now. Those situations just churn my stomach up so much that I definitely can't get to sleep.

Where am I going with this? Well, so maybe it would be easier if everything was just handed to me on a silver platter, right? Here...this is all your genealogy, going back 10 generations, pictures of everyone, documents, etc. Enjoy. Thanks silver platter. You just ruined my hobby.

As much as I want to find everything out there related to my family. I want to be the one to find it. I want to piece it together, to have those moments where you feel you can do the genealogy happy dance, whether it's in a cemetery, library, or in your pajamas in your house at 2:00 in the morning. So I want the thrill of genealogy, but along with that thrill comes the tears. By this I mean the information, the pictures, the documents and the people that I will never find. I have to come to terms with that fact, that this puzzle will never have all of its pieces put together.

Heartbreak and joy. I guess I can handle that. It's better than getting handed my genealogy all done for me. That would so ruin the experience and I wouldn't know what to do with myself after that.

As a side note, I hope that this great transformation in genealogy where so much information is being put online and indexed, does not make genealogy too much easier. I've been worrying about that lately as well. Will it take the fun out of genealogy, just having so much just a click away? Hopefully not; but I guess we are going to have to take the bad with the good.


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Genealogy Gold at the Antique Store

Sorry about my long absence! Time flies when you're busy....

So we were in Michigan for Easter weekend, visiting my family. My daughter had some interest in going to an antique store, and I thought it wasn't a bad idea to check it out either, since there are a couple in the St. Louis/Wheeler area of Gratiot County, where so many of my relatives have lived since the 1850's. I thought I might try my luck in finding some family treasures that found their way to the antique store lineup. I have a number of families where pictures and other items are scarce and their whereabouts are unknown, due to families dying out, estate sales, etc.

Never in a million years did I think I would actually find something. But I did.

I was going through a box of old pictures, the ones where the paper picture is glued to a cardboard back (forgive my ignorance on what these kind of pictures are called..my mind has not retained that piece of information today...). A number of the pictures were identified, some of the names I even recognized from the area, but had no connection to. There were pictures in there from other states as well, however.

Then I came across this one, written on the back was "Hopkins Family." Of course it is, because I actually have a reproduction that a distant relative sent me of this exact picture. The old man sitting in the middle is my 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Hopkins. I couldn't believe it. I let out a quick sigh, and my daughter notices and I show her the picture. Amazing.

Of course now, I'm on a mission. This antique store is divided up into shops, not easily distinguished. Every seller has a certain area, and they pay the owner of the store to sell their stuff there. I scour this person's area, every picture is looked at with keen eyes, and I come across two collateral line pictures, "Roscoe Hopkins" with what looks like one of his wives (he is one of the men in the first picture I found) son of Thomas Hopkins; and "Eugene and Matie Milligan," Matie being a Becker by birth and granddaughter of Thomas Hopkins, her mother Margie Hopkins Becker, and also in that first family picture.

That was all I found. I could not physically identify anyone else and there were no other names that popped out at me. I was grateful to find those three. I had seen, as I said earlier, the large family picture. But the other two were unknown to me.

I just wish I knew their history. How did they come to be in this antique shop?  Luckily, the lady who owned this spot in the store came in before I left, and I was able to speak to her. Unfortunately, she had no idea where they came from. She bought things from estate sales all over Michigan. Dead end there.

Interestingly, this is the family I would most likely find pictures of at an antique store, I believe. The last two children of the Thomas Hopkins family to die, were Roscoe Hopkins and William Hopkins. They had lost their wives, or first wives, at least, and had no children. I was told by a distant relative that at one of their estate sales, people were buying beautiful old pictures in frames, just for the frames, and this distant relative was trying to ask the people for the pictures before they were thrown away. How sad and tragic an end to family treasures. But some how, a few pictures trickled in here and there, and someone like me can even find some genealogy gold at the antique store.

Moral of the story? Never stop looking and never give up, gold is found in the most unexpected places.

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Sunday, March 24, 2013

RootsTech

I really enjoyed listening to the keynote speeches this week and a few of the classes through the RootsTech website. While I did not get a chance to go there, it was a nice experience to be able to listen in and feel a part of the show.

I also downloaded all the syllabus for the classes and will be going through them (in my so called free time!) to find out new tricks, websites, etc for researching.

While not genealogy related, I loved David Pogue's keynote Saturday morning. He is a great speaker and made everyone laugh.

If you haven't done so, download the class syllabus so that you can find out what you missed if you weren't able to go...lot's of interesting things to think about and check out!

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What is original anyway?

So what is a primary source? Or a secondary source? Or an original source? Lots of talk on the blogs about these things, and people refer to them differently. The problem is, you can hash it all you want, but there are very few primary original sources.

Am I a primary source for my birth? Well, technically, I was there. But I don't have recognizable memories until years later. While I do have a birth certificate which tells me when my birth was, if nothing else, I would have my mother to tell me what my birthday is. But would she tell me the correct date or remember the date?

Many times the vital or court records we look at are not the originals, so are they primary sources? Many of them are copied from another primary source. Land record originals were generally held by the individual owning the land and the courthouse only had a copy.  Who exactly gave the information to the county clerk in the 1800's for that death or birth or marriage? Did the clerk write it down correctly?

Bill Dollarhide had an interesting blog post a while back, that detailed exactly how the census was taken, and in fact the originals most likely no longer exist, as they were kept at the local level, created by the US Marshalls, before the Census Bureau was created. The "original" census pages we see now were copies of the originals. So this is how far removed that census information is from reality:

(1)Information provided by an unknown person to a US Marshall or Census Bureau employee....
(2)Who wrote it down as best he/she could trying to understand what that unknown person was telling them....
(3)The original census page being copied by an unknown individual onto another sheet to be submitted to DC...
(4)The copied census page being microfilmed, and then destroyed....
(5)The microfilmed census page then being digitized and uploaded to the Internet....
(6)A genealogist downloading that image to keep on their hard drive or to print out....

6 generations removed from the original (and possibly faulty to begin with) information about the family!
So don't ever wonder why the information on a census for a family is incorrect. I think it's a miracle that any of it is even close to being accurate.

Of course we could debate all day what a primary source is, or how many steps removed a primary source has to be for it to be considered a secondary source, and on and on. But that doesn't really get us anywhere, I suppose.

This is a quandary. And I suppose we have to realize the limitations of the documents we use, as well as our limitations in obtaining the "perfect" documents to properly source our material. We can only do our best, with what is provided to us or what is left to us after time has its way with those precious documents.

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Favorite Blog Post - Age Divide in Genealogy?

My how the week goes by, and here is my first blog post in more than a week! Life's a ride....

My favorite blog post this week was James Tanner's, "The Genealogy Age Gap - How do we expand to include the youth?"

This was an interesting topic, which I would also like to comment on. I feel personally vested in this topic due to the fact that I started genealogy when I was 16. When I went to a historical society or some type of library, I was a bit out of place, among the older people. And on occasion, I felt a bit...well, watched and/or patronized, when I was younger. Not only are the older generations (this is a relative term, here, which probably includes me now), somewhat skeptical of the intentions of younger people, they also can feel that those younger "kids" don't really know what they are doing.

The fact that younger people might not know what they are doing in genealogy is not bad. Everybody who starts in a hobby such as genealogy starts at the bottom. No matter the age. What I think the younger generations can bring to genealogy is their love and knowledge of technology, which is radically changing how genealogy works.

There are a couple of points I don't agree with Mr. Tanner, however. I think it has always fallen to the older people in society to bemoan the state of the younger generations. It has probably been going on for hundreds or thousand of years. While I am a pessimistic person by trade, I believe that the younger generations always work out their kinks and get with the program.  Things have worked out so far.

Okay, next point I want to take up is Mr. Tanner's attempt to provide genealogy with a solution to getting younger people involved in genealogy. I don't really think this is a problem. While his assertion is that they have no desire to learn about their family, no knowledge of how to do this, or time, may be spot on, I don't think that is anything new.

While my experience is somewhat unusual in genealogy, starting so young, the genealogy bug does catch numerous younger people. However, I think Mr. Tanner is missing the point. Genealogy has historically been something taken up by someone who has the time or resources to do it. That group includes wealthy individuals who can either pay someone to do it for them, or not have to work, and do it themselves, and the older, or retired generations. It is a time consuming hobby which also focuses the individual on their own mortality. Naturally as we get closer to our own mortality, we start to look backward at no only our own life, but also to our family history. I'm not trying to sound age biased here,but it is just something that I have seen in many older individuals in my family.

As a younger person who is passionate about genealogy, I don't need convincing that my family history is important. It is a struggle to find the time and money to do the necessary research, analyzing of the material and writing up of the genealogy. I'm just not sure anyone can convince younger people who are so busy and caught up with the day to day life that they need to pursue this hobby. Maybe we can change this outlook, but I'm not too hopeful. How about we start with proposing a 30 hour work week as a "full time" job?  That might be a start. 

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Friday, March 1, 2013

Let's Be Honest FamilySearch!

Dear FamilySearch,

I have a complaint. But first, let me just say that I love, love, love, love, what you are doing by putting all the original records now digitized up on the web. This has radically changed the profession in so many good ways. I love it so much, that in fact I probably check your website almost every day to see what is new or updated. Okay, so that sounds a bit crazy.

Now my complaint. Yesterday, you updated a lot of databases and a few image collections, 41 by my count.  That is terrific! Most, if not all, seem to be updates to collections, because I believe the total number of collections was the same the day before. So here is where my complaint comes in: I wish you would describe how these collections were updated! New information added? Corrections made? What????  I feel like I need to go back and search any of those collections I might have looked at already for the same people again.

This seriously undermines any attempt at an exhaustive search for something. When do I know if all the Michigan Death Records 1867-1897 are online? Will I ever? Is is possible that a death record I need is floating somewhere on a hard drive or lying on a microfilm undigitized somewhere in one of your vaults? The possibilities keep me up at night.  And I really need my sleep.

I realize it may be impossible to detail the exact updates for a collection, especially with time constraints. To be honest, I'm not sure if Ancestry provides any information on their updates either. However, for people wanting some semblance of certainty in their research, these updates to unknown information within data collections are very troubling.

FamilySearch, can we get any clarity?

P.S.

FamilySearch, I still love you.


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Many Layers of Genealogy

Okay, so I missed the Wednesday Wakeup last week. So here it is this week.

Since I've been reading and watching the genealogy blogs for the past year, I've noticed a lot of discussions and rants about the manner in which some of us research. We all know what that means: the name collecting, the lines without proof, the whole genealogies without sources, genealogies back to Adam, etc.

I know a lot of it is out there, and I bet some of us (me included) started out doing at least one of those terrible things I mentioned above. My intent here is not to rant again about those people. Why? Because I don't want to discourage them from genealogy and drive them out of our hobby/profession just because they don't have the "higher" standards that some of us have.

Let me digress for a minute.

Genealogy, as a profession and hobby, has many layers, like any profession/hobby.

First and foremost, you have the "professionals," those who make money off of genealogy in some way or another, and who set the standard for research. We all know the names of those people, we follow many of their blogs, listen to them at conferences or online, ask them for help or even hire them for our research.

Next you have the amateurs. They generally don't make money off of genealogy. They might have day jobs (and night jobs).  But they try to set the standards for their research at the level of the professionals. It doesn't necessarily mean they feel they are equals to the professionals (they can be), but more like they try to emulate the professionals. I myself, feel that I am in this group.

Lastly, you have the hobbyists. They may be the greatest in number of the groups and they are just as important to our advancement of genealogy as any other group. They may be name collectors, they may dabble a little bit, they may have a tree back to King Arthur, they may not source their work at all or not very well and they likely don't have the time, money or knowledge to get fully engaged in the hobby.

That's okay. Because you know why? I bet most of us started out in that group. We just realized we wanted more out of our hobby. So we set a higher standard for ourselves. And more importantly, a lot of my family information and documents and pictures come from people who fall in this group. Without them, I'd be deficient in my family history knowledge. So they may not have a proper source citation for great great grandpa's death....but they can show me the bible that has that date written in it. And they can show me the picture of him too.

My point here is, we don't want to discourage these people at all! That doesn't mean we can't have high standards for ourselves or for the hobby/profession. But we have to understand that a lot of people aren't going to share those high standards with us. We have to coexist and encourage them to take their interest to the next level, if they can. Otherwise if we berate them at every step, it won't be enjoyable, they won't feel welcomed and we just performed a disservice to our hobby or profession that we love.

Cheers and Happy Hunting


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Favorite Blog Post Feb 18-24 2013

This week, I really enjoyed the following blog post:

Bill Dollarhide's column on the Genealogy Blog website, The 1840 Federal Census: A New Look.

I always enjoy Bill's articles, as they are so detailed and always provide new information on a topic that I never knew and should know! Check it out and find out more about the 1840 census and what was provided on the forms.

For instance, and I'm ashamed to admit this as I didn't know this for a long time, the 1840 census has 2 pages to it. So when you are looking at a census image for that year, make sure to go to the next image. That image tells you about slaves in the household, industries people in the household are engaged in and other information. You might not find anything, but you never know.

Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Confessions of a Genealogist

I must be feeling repentant due to it being Lent. So here is my confession to the genealogy community.

If you contacted me today and asked me for information about any of my families, ancestors, etc. I would not be able to provide you with anything updated, coherent, sourced or relevant to your request. There it is. I said it. I'm not proud of it. 

I am a voracious researcher. I love to research and sometimes can't stop myself. It's so much fun and it's so rewarding finding those records. But compiling all that information into a beautiful and complete genealogy? Well not so fun. It's not that it isn't rewarding to see the end product of your research and compilation, but it can be tedious to accomplish. I know there some of you out there who agree with me....at least I hope I'm not the only one!  But it has come to a point where I just have no idea what information I have anymore and I need to get with the program.

So my goal this year was to start the laborious task of compiling everything I have into something organized and coherent. I purchased RootsMagic 6, which I am falling in love with. It has so many features buried into it that I know I haven't even scratched the surface yet. I spent some time earlier this winter watching some of the webinars they have on their website and learning the basic functions of the program. I have used Family Tree Maker before and to my credit I do have some genealogy entered into that program. But it is not sourced very well and certainly not updated.

The biggest task to overcome is providing complete and accurate source citations. I've been doing my best to source everything as completely as possible and provide a trail to every bit of information and proof of relationship that I have. Not an easy task, but I do have to say, it is kind of rewarding. But I have to watch myself, because I can get burned out on all entering and sourcing. Every once in a while, I take a detour and dive off into some great no holds barred research.

So far I've been slowly making my way through all the families in one of my great grandmother's genealogies: Hoard, Merritt, Champion, Brown, Hartsock and others. But for some time now, I've been "stuck" on the Champion family. Not only is there a brick wall trying to find the ancestors of Constant Champion, my 6th great grandfather, but the 1st and 2nd generations down from Constant are so interesting! Ministers and pastors, so many Civil War soldiers and the names these people used and passed down the generations! I'll get into the nitty gritty of this family in later blog posts and share some of my fun finds.

I hope everyone else is taking time to enter their information and provide accurate source citations. It won't always be fun, but you'll appreciate it some day. And many other people will appreciate it as well.

If you're in need of a genealogy program, RootsMagic is really nice. It can be customized in many ways and provides places for every kind of information and source citation you will ever need. It isn't easy to use at first, but it can start to grow on you. They have a free version called RootsMagic Essentials that doesn't include all of the features of the full version. So if you wanted to give it a try, that would be a good place to start.


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Friday, February 22, 2013

Success When You Least Expect It

It never ceases to amaze me how a little piece of information where I least expect it can lead to something much more important. In this case it led to my 3rd great grandmother's death certificate.

My great great grandfather, Lyman Henry Mapes, lived in Alma, Michigan from about 1865 to 1920. His mother, who was Emily Cohoon before she married Seth Mapes, was MIA after 1880. She had married Amasa Allen after Seth left her and Lyman not long after his birth in 1846. (That is a whole different story for another time!) I had followed Amasa and Emily through the 1880 census. But I was unable to locate her in the 1900 census, in the Michigan death records 1867-1897 at Familysearch, in the Michigan death records 1897-1920 at Seeking Michigan and pretty much anywhere else. Neither did my distant cousin, who had researched for years, locate her.

So maybe she is one of those lost people, you can never find? I'll have to admit, I did not do an exhaustive search. I would certainly have done that before ever giving up! But here is how I found her death record completely by chance:

I had a 2 week trial subscription to Genealogy Bank. They have a pretty good digitized newspaper collection, so you should check out if they have any newspapers for your areas of interest. They do not have anything for Gratiot County Michigan, where Alma is located. However....they do have some early Saginaw Michigan newspapers digitized. Saginaw is about 30 miles east of Alma.

Well, to get the most out of my free subscription at Genealogy Bank, I started searching all of my Gratiot families in the Saginaw newspapers. I soon realized that they had an Alma column for news from that area. I then came across this little gem:

In the May 4, 1900 Saginaw Evening News, reported in the Alma column from May 3, 1900

L.H. Mapes returned from Wayne Monday night where he went the latter part of last week to attend the death bed of his mother, who died on Saturday.

Jackpot!

So I knew from the newspaper that May 4 (the day it was published) was Friday. The Saturday before would therefore be April 28, 1900. That would be when Emily Cohoon Mapes Allen died.

Of course this isn't proof. But it was pretty good at the time. From there I went to Seeking Michigan to search the death records, where deaths in the year 1900 would be found. They don't have a terrific search, no soundex or anything, so once again, I didn't find her. I resorted to searching for "Allen" in Last Name and  "Wayne County" in county of death. That brought up 319 results. So I narrowed it down and added another search term, year of death "1900."

Jackpot again!

Allen Emley 1900 Wayne

So the name was indexed as "Emley," but that is also how it looks on her death certificate. You can see it here. Died April 28, 1900. The informant was L.H. Mapes of Alma, Michigan.

Golden. Now I just need to order an obituary.

What is the take away from this research story? You can find what you are looking for in places you never thought to look and at times you weren't even considering it. So keep your eyes open to all possibilities. And as for my lack of exhaustive research on Emily's death....well....let me make the excuse that I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. But I will be more careful in the future.

Happy Hunting


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Favorite Blog Post Of The Week

If you haven't checked out The Legal Genealogist, you should.  Judy G. Russell really drives down on a problem or subject and opens up a whole new understanding on an issue.  This week she had a post that detailed a wise choice a woman made in 1900 in Pennsylvania after her husband died. Should she take what her husband left her in his will or invoke her right to dower in his estate? Read Philippina's Choice and you'll find out about this interesting situation.

Incidentally, Judy helped me out with a problem recently, that just goes to show you how much more to something there is when you get into the history behind a puzzling situation. Read The Week-Long Warrior and find out about a little known invasion of Indiana and Ohio by Confederates during the Civil War.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

New Digital Genealogy Magazine

The In-Depth Genealogist has a new digital magazine chock full of great stories and advice for genealogists at their website. The new publication is called "Going In-Depth."  It's free, 73 pages long (!) and you will certainly enjoy it as I did. Go on over to the In-Depth Genealogist blog and check it out and support them in their new endeavor.

Friday, February 15, 2013

FamilySearch Photoduplication Service Revised

Well it appears that the new and "free," photoduplication service from Familysearch has been popular. They've revised their rules a bit to accommodate what I would think is a deluge of requests for this service.

I'm pretty sure the following sentence was not on the page originally:

"If you have a local Family History Center to utilize, please do so before using this service as we do not have the staff to accommodate all requests!  Thank you."

And I know for a fact that the following has been changed:

"PLEASE LIMIT YOUR REQUEST TO FIVE (5) DOCUMENTS PER REQUEST PER MONTH!  "

Before, it was 5 documents per request per week. Apparently, they underestimated how popular this service would be. 

I haven't requested anything as of yet, but will soon. Anybody else request documents and get a response?


https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Photoduplication_Services


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday Wakeup - Are Your Memories Real?

I'm going to start a column called Wednesday Wakeup...although, at this point today, it could be called Wednesday Wind Down....But regardless, I'm going to be throwing out some interesting ideas that will make  you rethink your family history.

An interesting article published last year in Wired Magazine, confronts our misconceptions about memory. This lengthy article's real purpose is to propose means by which people may be able to rid themselves of painful memories in the future. This in itself would be a debatable prospect. While painful memories hurt, I believe they create who we are and generally strengthen us. However, in certain circumstances of course, painful memories do haunt and torture people. I can understand the attempt to get rid of those kind of memories.

More importantly, however, the article describes how scientists are coming to understand the nature of memory and how it changes over time. The implications of this new understanding of memory can certainly impact what we think about all those family stories and memories we hear from our relatives.

I won't go into the heavy biological science of this article, but the process of creating and remembering a memory is biological activity in the brain. Scientists found a way to block protein synthesis in the brains of rats, and when they should have remembered something that harmed them, they didn't. It is this biological process which creates and recreates our memories.

So here's the catch, the scientists believe that every time we remember something - say a birthday party, a big vacation or a traumatic event, like a death in the family - we aren't just pulling those memories up from our stored memory exactly as they happened, or even exactly as we remembered them. Our brain erases that memory and then records it again. But in the second, third, fourth or fiftieth recording, we are gradually changing that memory. For instance, say we remember the death of a loved one. But in experiencing that death when it happened versus remembering it years later after the trauma has faded away, we may record different aspects of that memory, and even different emotions associated with that memory.

The scientists in charge of these studies indicate that surveys done of people who experienced first hand the 9/11 tragedy, showed how their stories decayed over time to a point where some people even put themselves in different places when the tragedy occurred. This was all without their knowing they were doing this.

So what's important about this article? Can you even trust anybody's memory at some point? That's hard to say. I always believe that some kernel of truth lies in family stories, but depending on how long ago those stories occurred, that kernel might be very small. Just imagine  how much change has occurred in a story passed down 2 ,3 or more generations, with every person innocently modifying it every time they replayed that memory in their head.

For me, I'm going to continue to enjoy family stories, I think they add depth and fun to family history. But it makes one wonder if it shouldn't be classified as historical fiction?

I'll leave you with an ominous quote from the story:

"In the very near future, the act of remembering will become a choice."


"The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever," Jonah Lehrer; Wired Magazine, Feb 12, 2012, online at: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/02/ff_forgettingpill/


Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcome!

Well, I've finally taken the plunge and I'm writing my first blog post, even though I technically created this blog months ago. Better late than never, right? I guess listening to Lisa Louise Cooke's podcast has finally rubbed off on me. Thanks Lisa for always encouraging everyone to put themselves out there and test the blogging waters!

So let's start off with an introduction: My name is Matt Mapes and I'm addicted to genealogy. It's not a bad addiction, at least not most of the time. But when I don't get enough sleep because I'm lying awake at night thinking about all the information and documents I don't have, or if I tend to neglect my family a little too much, I suppose my passion for genealogy can be a bit destructive.

I've been researching my genealogy for a good 20 years, since about the time I was in high school. Yes, I was so cool when I was in high school. But I am certainly glad I started early. If I hadn't, I would not have had my maternal grandmother, or a number of other older relatives to guide me and help me understand my family before they joined all the others who have gone into history.

I'm not promising much for this blog. My life is a bit busy, with two kids, a wife, a house and we both have full time jobs (and my wife is also going to graduate school). But I'm going to offer some unique perspectives on genealogy and our ancestors and I'll throw out some family information along the way in hopes of finding some new cousins.

Sign up, comment, email me and enjoy!

Happy hunting...