Following are some recent stories and posts about genealogy and history that I found interesting and informative. I want to share them with you.
Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, shares an interesting story about last week’s Supreme Court decision that is of major importance to genealogists. In the case of McBurney v. Young, the court decided unanimously that freedom of information is a service provided by the states, and not a right enjoyed by the people. The case dealt with Virginia, but the decision applies throughout the country. States are no longer required to provide information to non-residents. Laws limiting access to residents are also in place in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Tennessee. Read more about the impact to genealogists in Freedom of Information: Residents Only.
Michael Hait had an important post in Planting the Seeds last week. Genealogists do a lot of writing to share their research results. But one of the biggest problems facing us with our writing is when to use the present tense and when to use the past tense. It can be frustrating to communicate clearly. Michael shares some rules from Ben Yagoda, professor of English and journalism at the University of Delaware. There are two basic conventions to apply for when to use the past tense and when to use the present. You can find out about them at Historical Writing and When to Use the Present Tense.
John L. Bell’s Boston 1775 blog is always very interesting. Last week he ran a two-part series on Bunker Hill. The posts are an interview with historian Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the recently-published Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution. The book beings just after the Boston Tea Party and ends with the evacuation of Boston upon the arrival of General Gage and his troops. It is a stimulating conversation that ranges from the truth of legends from the battle to Philbrick’s casting of great actors from the past for a film version of the book. You can read the full interview in Q& A on Bunker Hill with Nathaniel Philbrick, Part I and Part II.
There were several stories this week about a fascinating discovery by British scientists. A team of University of Reading linguists has been examining words in English, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, and more. They have determined that these modern languages descend from a single ancestral tongue that existed about 15,000 years ago. They looked at a handful of words in several languages that are very similar in sound, appearance, and meeting. We of these words are considered “ultraconservative” and would likely still sound familiar to our far-off ancestors. Read more in The 15,000-Year-Old Ancestral Language that Birthed English and Russian.
Finally comes a subject near and dear to my heart. Dick Eastman posted yesterday about the fallacy of ancient ancestry. Nothing is more frustrating to professional genealogists than hearing someone tell us how they have traced their family tree all the way back to ancient Rome, or worse, still, to Adam and Eve. This is 100% impossible. Unfortunately, many people see these false pedigrees in out-of-copyright genealogies and believe them without investigating further. In I Have My Family Tree Back to Adam and Eve, Dick discusses articles by Nathan Murphy, a Senior Research Consultant in the LDS Genealogical Department, and Robert C. Gunderson, Senior Royalty Research Specialist there that discuss the impossibility of such pedigrees.