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The History Dictionary

Today is National Dictionary Day here in the U.S. and I thought it would be a fun time to look at some unusual words that pertain to history.  These aren't really dictionary definitions.  After all, what fun would that be?  They are more, definitions as they apply to historical research.

Life is our Dictionary.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Context
[kon-tekst]
noun

Definition - the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

Origin -
early 15c., from Latin contextus "a joining together," originally past-participle of contexere "to weave together,"
from com- "together" + texere "to weave".

In history - 
When looking at a specific, small topic, like family history, establishing context can mean two things.  The first, is gathering information about outside events that might have affected the subject of your research.  For example, researching your ancestors living in Oklahoma in the 1930s, it could be very important to understand the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, so that you can understand what the sources you find mean within the context of those two events.  

The second form of context, can refer to bias.  Every piece of information is subject to bias.  You are bias, and the sources you choose to incorporate as well as the information you choose to wain from those sources and how you tell the story will be influenced by that bias.  Even your sources are bias, they were written by humans with opinions and objectives for specific reasons.  This establishes a context that can help you understand what further information you might need as well as how to interpret your sources. 

Heritage
[her-i-tij]
noun

Definition - 
the evidence of the past, such as historical sites, buildings, 
and the unspoilt natural environment, considered collectively 
as the inheritance of present-day society

Origin -  c.1200, "that which may be inherited," from Old French iritage, eritage , heritage, from heriter "inherit," from Late Latin hereditare,
ultimately from Latin heres (genitive heredis) "heir."

In history - 
Heritage has earned itself a rather controversial position in the historical vocabulary.  According to historian David Loewenthal, "The purpose of 'heritage' is to domesticate the past for present causes."*  It is the idea of using history as a kind of propoganda with a specific end in mind.  Consider it the ultimate bias-- and one more often than not political in nature.  This simple term, while often used innocently, can have rather dark connotations in some instances.
 

Historiography 
[hi-stawr-ee-og-ruh-fee, -stohr-] 
noun

Definition - 
the body of techniques, theories, and principles of historical
 research and presentation; 
methods of historical scholarship.

Origin -

1560s; see from history + -graphy. Related: Historiographer.

In History - 
Typically this refers to a method of doing research that we adhere to, in order to make our research valuable for future generations.  Historiography dictates that we should attempt to interpret history without bending it based on our personal biases or the biases of our sources.  It also tells us that to do this we should try to rely upon primary sources for our information where possible, rather than relying on the interpretation of another historian too heavily.  

*taken from John Fea's Why Study History? pp. 39-40.  

If you are interested in knowing more about the how and why behind genealogy and family history research, my book The Purposeful Family Historian delves into how to harness the bigger picture of historical context and research to find your purpose and propel your research. 

For 5 days only ( 10/16-10/20)  - starting today -  I'm giving it away for free on Amazon! 

It's normally $9.99, but to celebrate my birthday, I thought I'd give it away for a very short, limited time!

I am only asking one teeny, tiny favor: If you download the book and you love it, would you consider writing a review on Amazon? The more reviews the book gets the more potential others will find it and it will help them.  I really appreciate your help!

photo 4 (2).JPG

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


What Will Historical Research Look Like In the Future?

We live in a time when change seems to surround us. Global lines of communication mean that information travels more quickly than ever and allow us to share ideas, hopes and more and more unite us in a common history that surpasses cultural or national boundaries. 

So, it begs the question: What will historical research look like in the future? I tried to answer the question, but it should be noted that what I came up with is based solely on my observations and is done in a spirit of fun rather than any kind of authoritative insight I have on the topic.  

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There was an article this Summer on the Fast Co. Exist blog that discussed jobs that might appear by the year 2030.  Among these was one titled "Nostalgist" which is described to be like an interior designer, but who focuses on creating a decorative scheme reminiscent of another time.  As historians turn toward less traditional career trajectories in consulting and business, this seems like all to real a possibility.  

In fact, not just interior design, but other decidedly kitschy and commercialized facets for history could appear. 

Just as the automobile forever changed business in America, replacing catalog retail with shopping malls and facilitating the appearance of fancifully shaped rest stops.  So, too, has the computer and internet changed the face of historical research.  Unfortunately, just as the world never reverted to its pre-automobile condition, it is equally unlikely that the closing libraries, historical and genealogical societies will stop.  

I think that the future will bring the close of many more than we have already seen, and I am no happier about it than I'm certain any of you are, but I don't believe they will all close.  Some will survive, those who learn to harness the power of marketing and begin to look at their facility as a business with a service to provide as opposed to an organization with inherent value.  With the internet providing a more convenient, often less expensive means for getting information, it will be harder for the public at large to perceive the inherent value, rather, it will have to be clearly communicated. 

The societies and museums that will do it best will be those which aren't afraid of change, as we've seen recently, some genealogical societies have began to merge with historical societies.  These mergers could prove useful providing a greater audience for one united society, but combining collections and archives could be an infrastructural nightmare without the proper facility and manpower in place. 

Meanwhile, catalogs and collections will have to become more digitized and I think we will begin to see more online exhibitions.  I think that this could lead to an online research library where a research librarian will be available by chat or e-mail to answer questions and help locate or send along resources.  Maybe these resources will be available for check out like an ebook from a library with a paid membership to an online repository.  

Of course, my humble book-loving, paper-touching, opinion is that the digital experience could never ever measure up to the sensory experience of being in a library.  So, I hope that these innovations wouldn't make it impossible to do research in person, but the reality is, it might.  

All the more reason to dive in and start researching now! 

What are your predictions for the future of historical research? What do you think is likely to change? What do you think will stay the same? Let us know in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


The American Lighting Evolution

The idea of artificial lighting seems like such a given that sometimes its easy to forget there was a time it didn't exist.  There was a distinct evolution of technology allowing us to light our homes each night.  As a consummate insomniac, a development that I am sincerely grateful for. I thought I'd try something a little different today - a podcast.  

Works Cited

1. “Electric Lighting in the United States,” Science, Vol. 5, No. 103 (Jan. 23, 1885), pp. 79-80

2. Marshall B. Davidson, “Early American Lighting,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin , New Series, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer, 1944), pp. 30-40

3. Thomas A. Edison, “The Dangers of Electric Lighting,” The North American Review , Vol. 149, No. 396 (Nov., 1889), pp. 625-634

4. Mimi Sherman, “A Look at Nineteenth-Century Lighting: Lighting Devices from the Merchant's House Museum,” APT Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 1, Lighting Historic House Museums (2000), pp. 37-43

License Free Image
6. KMJ, “Gluehlampe 01 KMJ.jpg” CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), via Wikimedia Commons

License Free Music
7. Redvers West-Boyle “Marking Time.mp3” Dec. 30, 2012, https://soundcloud.com/rwb-1/marking-time, accessed Dec. 13, 2013.  

Our giveaway has ended and an e-mail was sent out this morning to notify everyone of the winners along with some great coupons and freebies.  If you would like to be on our list for the next contest, coupon or just for the free stuff, use the sign up form below.  

Didn't win our contest?  You can get your planner on Wednesday, October 1 during the big launch! Just a couple short days a way! Check back to the shop!

What do you think of this format? Would you like to see more audio-posts here? Let us know in the comments!

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts

This week I have been busy volunteering at the Association for American State and Local History Conference which just so happens to be here in St. Paul, MN, this year.  It has been a ridiculously cool experience and I am enjoying learning from all the speakers and presenters!

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I loved this quote from yesterday's keynote speaker, Garrison Keillor: 

"The discovery that unbeknownst to you amazing things were happening in your vicinity, and if you'd have known about them they'd have changed your life. This is history."

It is neat to see your stomping grounds from someone else's perspective.  Of course there is a lot to do, so I am going to keep this short and sweet!  If you are here,  be sure to say 'hi'!  

Tara Cajacob


Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Mid-Week Inspiration

Who doesn't need a little more inspiration in their life? I've found myself feeling a little spread thin lately with the busy, busyness of fall, running a company and preparing for a big launch -- so I can sure take it wherever I can get it!  

I wanted to share with you this quote that spoke to my soul:

"A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance."  --Gary Hamel

This is what sharing and working in history means to me, it is my noble purpose and yes, it does all those things.  I won't go into it again, because I know I have shared many times before why my love for history runs so deep and why I hope everyone can some day find joy in it.  

What is your favorite quote?  Have you found inspiration somewhere unexpected this week? If so, share in the comments below!

 


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Sneak Peek! Family History Research Planners Coming in October!

Things have been so exciting here!  The launch of the new ebook The Purposeful Family Historian is right around the corner, and on that note I have even more big news!  I have been working for nearly two years to perfect The Historical Research Planner System which will be debuting this October!

UPDATE 10/1: They're here!! When you finish with this post, check out the shop to get your planner pack as an instant download! 

Those of you who are on the mailing list got the news first but I have new exclusive details today.  Not on the list yet? Sign up at the bottom of this post to get all the details first AND the Free Photo Memories Workbook in your inbox. 

The system is available as three separate packs, which integrate seamlessly with one another or are useable one at a time, all of which are printable PDF Smart Forms with Fillable blanks:

  1. The Calendar Pack - to help you set goals, break them down into tasks and schedule them for increased productivity and focus.
  2. The Genealogy Pack - with forms to organize your entire family tree while keeping everything color coded for efficiency and organization. 
  3. The Filing Pack - has everything you need to file your whole project, utilizing coordinating color-coded box labels, file labels and binder tabs.  

Are you as excited as we are? Let us know below! Keep checking back to get updates about the launch!

Tara Cajacob


Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Grandparents Day: A Celebration of Family

There are 70 million grandparents in the United States ranging in age from 30 to 110.   National Grandparents Day is September 7 and its a great excuse to get in touch with your grandparent if they are still with us or to do something in their memory if they are not.

Not only can your grandparents help you fill in the branches of your family tree (if you haven't read our blog posts on oral history you can do so here), but also, they are a part of who you are.  For activities, games, icebreakers and more ideas relating to Grandparents Day appropriate for both kids and adults, check out The Legacy Project's page.

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


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