Category Archives: research

I Moves and Clicks the Mouse

In looking back on my posts, I see it’s been quite a while since I wrote anything about research. When I did, it was mostly in connection with books I was writing. Yes, books do require research, even if you’re writing about a contemporary topic, but certainly if the novel is set somewhere in the past, or if you’re writing non-fiction. In actual fact, however, I see that some of my recent posts included discussion of research, so I’ve gone back and edited their categories to include it.

My research of late, however, is of a different kind: genealogy. I finished research for Documenting America: Civil War Edition in June. Before that I had research for Preserve The Revelation, which I finished around April, while I was writing it. Both of those involved pleasant research—research that was fulfilling.

But I never completely give up on my genealogy research. I’m always looking for that elusive ancestor. Several posts ago I wrote something about this: how I never could get information about my maternal grandfather; about how I thought I had finally found him. I still haven’t gone the route of seeking confirmation through DNA testing. That’s something I will eventually do. Meanwhile, I’m 99.99% certain that the man I found is indeed my grandfather.

Found, not in the sense of him being alive, but in the sense of learning who he was, where he was, and confirming what little family lore I had. That has involved research. Since I’m not in a position of traveling, my research has been on the internet.

As I mentioned many years ago, research has tentacles. You research one thing and find it or learn it, but that only leads you to look at two other things. Then research and find those two things, and suddenly your research to-do list have five more things on them. Except, since it’s all a matter of looking for reliable sources on the internet, and steering away from unreliable sources, the research tends to go so fast you don’t even mess with a to-do list. You just move the mouse and click.

As I said, my current research has mostly to do with my grandfather. Born in 1882 (based on my research; some sources say 1881, some 1883; the most reliable say 1882), I’m finding tons about him. One of his sons, a half-brother to my mother, had written a family history based on interviews with his dad (my grandfather). One interesting item was that he had been in the militia in Canada before going on active duty in WW1. This family history, however, said that he was called up with the militia to take part in a peace-keeping action due to a violent strike, this taking place on Vancouver Island. The town he mentioned was Ladysmith.

Could this be true? If grandfather told it to his son, you’d think it would be true, end of story. Confirmation is nice, however, so I decided to look for history about this peace-keeping action. Who knows but that his name may show up in some official record. I usually start with Wikipedia. Much maligned, I find it is mostly reliable. Like any source, confirmation is always advisable. I looked for such things as “Ladysmith-strike” and “Canada strikes 1913”, and found nothing. I did find a page for Ladysmith, however, that included this entry:

Ladysmith has been notable in the history of the labour movement with significant unrest and violence during the major strikes of the 1913–1914 era. During this time militia were dispatched to put down unrest and protect property.

That’s sort of confirmation, but it was given in Wikipedia without any source citation. I decided to look for newspapers. Several large databases of digitized newspapers exist. They are all behind paywalls, and I have no access to them. I find, however, that some of the databases give a snippet of text with them. I hoped for that for a 1913 newspaper on Vancouver Island. I remembered I had already found one newspaper, the full edition as picture and text, at I found it while searching for grandfather’s third marriage, which I found in a newspaper out of Victoria BC. Might more of it be on-line?

I went to my browsing history, found the paper I’d already seen, and brought it up. Following links at, I discovered that many editions of the newspaper on-line, including all issues between 1912 and 1918. Bingo! I searched through 1913, and found the stories about the labor strike (International Mine Workers, representing the coal laborers), the violence associated with it, unsuccessful police attempts to quell it, and finally calling up the militia in early August 1913—exactly the time given in my uncle’s family history.

I have much more to read in these newspapers, including going back to 1911 for some items. This will take much more time than I have right now. Hopefully these newspapers will still be there when I retire.

But I had another success. I wanted to find out more about grandfather’s first wife, the one who divorced him before he married (maybe married, that is) my grandmother in St. Lucia during the war. After many mouse movement, many clicks, and following my intuition, I found information on her birth, found her in the census, found a marriage index for her and grandfather’s wedding, found evidence that they were indeed divorced during the war (just as grandmother told me), and even found a record of her death, in Taft, California, in 1938.

I discussed this with my half-sister, who seemed surprised that I had been able to find that much. I told her “I just moves and points the mouse and the magic happens.” Sometimes I think that’s true. To some extent, it might be my ability to reason things out, anticipate the most likely outcome, and focus on that till I find success.

For whatever the reason, I’m glad for it.

Unexpected Change in Plans

So, Dorothy, just who was your father?
So, Dorothy, just who was your father?

Yes, this last week I had an unexpected change in plans.

Is any change in plans expected? Maybe some are, but I suspect most aren’t. Some are bad; some are good. Some result in a little change; some in a major change. This one, that began last Monday and extended through the rest of the week, was a doozey. A major change in direction for my extra-curricular activities, so to speak.

On Monday I received an e-mail from 23andMe, the DNA company, saying that I had new DNA relatives posted. Great; I get that e-mail from them every month. As new people have their DNA checked, 23andMe figures out who’s related to who, aggregates them month by month, and notifies you when you have new ones. I have new ones almost every month, but few are close relatives. Most are distant cousins, and we share 0.05% or less of our DNA. No way to tell how we are related, and not really worth taking time to try to figure it out.

It was World War 1, after all. Wartime romances can, I'm told, be intense. For sure your dad never saw this nice photo of you.
It was World War 1, after all. Wartime romances can, I’m told, be intense. For sure your dad never saw this nice photo of you.

But this month I had a guy added with the last name Penson. That’s significant because I’m related to another man (and his daughter) on there in a significant way. He was predicted to be my third cousin, and he was related to me and my half-sister, but not to some other cousins who are related to my through my grandmother’s mother. That meant this guy and I had to be related either through my mother’s father or her paternal grandfather. If this man and I are third cousins, that means we share great-great-grandparents as common ancestors. That’s close enough to pursue, so I asked for sharing with them. His daughter gave me what information she had for his great-grandparents. She had all of them, eight names for me to pursue, none of them a family name I recognized.

I need to back up. I haven’t know for sure who my mother’s dad was. My grandmother told me his name, way back in 1977-ish, but with her it was always difficult to know if she was telling the truth. Sorry if that’s a terrible thing to say about a grandmother, but it was so. She said he was married before, but had divorced his wife, and they were married. However, the marriage was annulled when her husband was found to be a bigamist. She described it as an honest mistake, him thinking his divorce was final when it really wasn’t. That’s how things stood for 40 years. I knew his name, which included only a diminutive for his first name. When I started to seriously research genealogy around 1998, and in the years since then, I would from time to time spend a little time looking for him. I thought once I found him, but couldn’t place the man of the right name and age in St. Lucia in 1917, which I was pretty sure was where he had to be for him to have a relationship with my grandmother and for my mom to be conceived.

It would have been nice for you to have known your dad. Alas, such are life's circumstances.
It would have been nice for you to have known your dad. Alas, such are life’s circumstances.

Back now to 23andMe. So on Monday I’m notified I have new DNA relatives. Among them was this man named Penson, who was predicted to be my 3rd cousin. The significance was Penson was one of the names given to me as great-grandparents of the other man. That told me I should be looking for a connection between Penson and Foreman, the name my grandmother said was her husband’s name (though she had never taken his name). An internet search turned it up almost immediately. A man of the right diminutive and last name was in a family where his mother’s name was Penson. Bingo!

I believe it was Tuesday that I found that. As I searched more for this man, I discovered he was Canadian (as I was told he was), and that he served in the military during World War 1—also as I had been told.  I just needed to put him in St. Lucia during that war. Further searching showed that Canadian WW1 records are scanned and on-line. I searched, found the guy, and saw he was in St. Lucia from November 1915 to August 1918—exactly when he needed to be there.

From that point the week was filled with confirmations, finding genealogy website that showed him with families before and after the war, and trying to find people of those names on Facebook. From various websites I was able to confirm much information those websites had, and even expand greatly on them. By Friday I was pretty sure who some half-first cousins were, and made contact on them on Facebook. With two of them I’ve had some messaging conversations. At this point I don’t want to give any names, even of the long dead. That may come in another post.

So, my forty year quest to know who my grandfather was is now over. Well, not quite over. I’m hoping some first cousins will be willing to take DNA tests to confirm the relationship. All the pieces have fallen into place, confirming what my grandmother told me. But so long as there’s a scientific way to prove it, why not? That will be the next step.

So, this week, I hope to return to normal off-work activities, such as writing, reading, stock trading, upkeep around the house. The saga isn’t over, but may have to go on the back burner for a bit.

Did “Q” Exist, or Not?

As I said in my last post, the weekend just passed was full of publishing tasks. I made good progress on them, but that will be a subject for a future post.

In terms of writing, one of my current tasks is research on the next book in my Church History series of novels. Tentatively titled Adam Of Jerusalem, it will be the prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant. All this I have mentioned before.

My plan is to have Augustus’ father, Adam, as a junior scribe in the high priest’s employ. On the night when Jesus is brought in for questioning and trial, Adam will be sent on an errand to gather members of the Sanhedrin for the illegal nighttime trial. Later, after Jesus’ death and the early growth of the Christian movement, Adam is assigned to gather information on the teachings of Jesus, with the idea that they will prove heretical, and the high priest can use them against what he sees as a threat to his authority.

In essence, Adam will be the one who pulls together the document known today as “Q”. Short for Quelle [i.e. Source], this is a document thought to have existed prior to Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels. First proposed in the early 1800s, by the mid-1900s, Christian scholarship seems to have more or less accepted this as having been a true document. It’s contents, while technically unknown, are proposed to be the sayings of Jesus, that large body of teaching that appears in Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark. The supposition is Mark was written first. At the same time, “Q” was written, and was available to both Matthew and Luke as they wrote their gospels. Possibly both Matthew and Luke had other sources, which of course is the subject of Doctor Luke’s Assistant.

So, I’ve been researching “Q”. What I’m finding is its existence actually isn’t all that universally accepted by scholars as I thought. A lot of scholars seem doubtful to downright derisive. If “Q” existed, they say, where are the copies? Why haven’t we found any manuscripts? To that I would counter: We haven’t found any copies of any New Testament manuscripts from the first century. Once the contents of “Q” were incorporated into the gospels, to continue to copy it as a separate document would have been silly. You copy the later and more complete document, not the earlier notes that you used to write the later document. Doesn’t that seem logical?

The “Q” opponents don’t seem to think so. Some of them are almost vitriolic in their arguments against “Q”. Why? I read some other essays/papers on the existence/non-existence of “Q”. What I gather from that is that those who say “Q” existed—at least those who say “Q” existed widely, and was copied frequently and used in the early churches before the gospels were written—say that “Q” represents a purer form of Christian teaching than the gospels do. Why purer? Because it came before the gospels. Why widespread? Because if both Matthew and Luke had it, it must have been often copied and widely disseminated.

So what? you might ask. Why is this important. The proponents of “Q” say it consisted of only sayings/teachings of Jesus, not the virgin birth, not the miracles, not the passion, death, and resurrection. It presented Jesus as a great moral teacher, not the divine Son of God, the God-Man that we think of him as today. So say some of the proponents of “Q”.

This, I think, is the reason why some people are hitting back so hard against “Q”.  If you’re going to expand “Q” from someone’s research notes into a document intended to stand alone and be used as teaching, and if you’re going to say that represents true Christianity before it was “corrupted” by all this God-Man gibberish, well, yeah, I can see why other scholars would push back so hard against it.

The amount of time spent on this question, based on the large mass of documents available on it, is mind-boggling. It seems logical to me, almost intuitively obvious, that someone, somewhere, before Matthew and Luke began to write their gospels, had written some notes on Jesus’ sayings. Someone else had probably written something about his passion, death, and resurrection; so it made sense for someone else to concentrate on his teaching. Why argue against that? Why try to make it into a proto-gospel, and claim documents subsequent to it are un-pure Christianity, i.e. corrupted Christianity? It’s this larger claim, I think, that fuels those who say they don’t believe “Q” existed.

Both sides, then, appear to be over-stating things. And so the controversy goes on. Scholars are trying to use what were someone’s simple research notes and make them more than they were, which causes others to say they probably never existed.

My take in Adam Of Jerusalem will be that they existed, but they were never widely copied or disseminated, and never formed a stand-alone teaching document. Maybe that’s a middle-of-the-road position, but I think it’s a good one, and I’m sticking to it.

Historical Conflict About the Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, a three-day battle, was had the most casualties of any Civil War battle.
Gettysburg, a three-day battle, was had the most casualties of any Civil War battle.

As I wrote my Civil War history book, the battle of Gettysburg consumed one chapter. The documents I used were: a letter from Confederate General George Pickett to his wife after the battle; and the official battle report of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  I also read, about three years ago, part of a book titled Last Chance for Victory. This is written by two historians from Texas, who concentrated on the Confederate strategy and battle execution.

When I read this (well, part of this), I didn’t yet have my documents decided upon. I mainly read it to get an overview of the battle, about which I had known nothing, and to see what references the authors used, figuring it would be from among those references that I would select the source documents. That worked well, and I did get a fair number of suggestions for source documents.

Now, having finished the book, and having recently finished reading a different book, I decided to return to LCFV and finish it. I’m in the midst of it, having finished almost 400 pages, with another 200 or so to go.

Lee's gamble of marching north, to take the pressure off Virginia, and to force the North to end the war, didn't pay off. This book suggests it came very, very close.
Lee’s gamble of marching north, to take the pressure off Virginia, and to force the North to end the war, didn’t pay off. This book suggests it came very, very close.

I will eventually write a full review if it. But what I wanted to do with this post is talk about historical interpretation. As I’m reading LCFV, and not being a military tactics person, knowing relatively little about military strategy, and not being a military historian, I’m much dependent on what those more knowledgeable than me say. But, yesterday, I went to the Amazon listing for LCFV, and read through the 70-odd reviews, as well as the 50 or so comments on the reviews. I got an eyeful.

Many said the book was great, and it was about time an honest book had been written from the Southern perspective. Others, including some who appeared to be professional military historians, as well as guides at the Gettysburg National Military Park, took issue with LCFV, saying it whitewashed Lee’s mistakes in planning the battle, and in leading his subordinates on the execution. Wow. So many opinions, so little time to digest them.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between. Perhaps I’ll have to read more about Gettysburg (I have another book in-house). But I have no intention about becoming an expert on this battle, or any other battle. I want to know what happened. I want to direct my readers to some original source documents, and maybe spur them on to research in other source documents, and to draw conclusions for themselves.

I realize that isn’t going to happen a whole lot. People are content to read history books, where the author(s) mainly quotes snippets from the sources, tells the reader what he’s concluded, and suggests the reader does the same. I don’t want to do that with my books. I want to help the reader get an introduction to the many (thousands) of source documents, and hope they dig a little deeper into whatever part of the Civil War interests them.

That’s as much as I can hope for.

Research for Documenting America

When I was on the working vacation recently, Moses Austin went with me. Moses wrote a journal on his trip through the Ohio Valley and on to Saint Louis. That trip took place during the bitterly cold and snowy winter of 1796-97. He started out from the mountains of Virginia, then into Kentucky, then territory that would eventually become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri (still under the control of Spain at that time). His return trip was by way of Kentucky and Tennessee.

An excerpt of this journal is the first item in Volume 4 of the Annals of America, an Encyclopedia Britannica publication. My analysis of that document, or rather of that excerpt, is a chapter in Documenting America. I took that volume with me for research reading material. Lynda drove some on the first day of the trip, so I pulled that out of my reading bag and started at the beginning. Later, at our hotel in Orlando, I was able to finish the excerpt and write two chapters in manuscript.

Now, a journal of a trip, even a trip through wilderness areas, may not be inspiring writing. When I began reading it I wasn’t sure it would be good material for a chapter, let alone two. But I did find it to contain information that I thought readers of Documenting America might want to know about. So I read the whole thing and wrote. After returning home I typed the two chapters, no. 27 and 28.

My research didn’t stop there. First I made a trip to Wikipedia for a brief bio. Now I know a lot of people moan about Wikipedia and inaccuracies. I’m sure they have some, maybe many. But for initial research and sources of information, I’ve found it to be a good place to go. Austin’s bio was brief, but certainly longer than the paragraph in my source. It gave me some good background, subject to confirmation if I used any of it.

As I said my source gave only an excerpt of the journal. Those ellipses that the Encyclopedia Britannica people use don’t tell me much. Was there good material in those left out sections or not? They took it from Vol 5 of The American Historical Review, which sounded like a publication. A search through Google Books turned up the volume. Talk about instant library loan, without the $2.00 search fee! Downloaded in five seconds, and the applicable pages printed in another hundred or so.

Before the journal was a biographical sketch of Moses Austin, written by his son, the famed Stephen F. Austin, and edited by one of Moses’ grandsons. Only a few pages long, it was an excellent short bio. It blew away the information given in the Annals and in Wikipedia. It’s tempting to join Wiki as a contributor, just to be able to flesh out Moses Austin’s biography. Maybe later.

The full journal, in all its glorious, archaic language full of long paragraphs, inconsistent spellings, and poor punctuation was there, having appeared in the April 1900 issue of the magazine. I scanned the full journal before typing the chapters. Some of the removed material was good, and I included it in the quote portion of the chapter. The except had been six or seven pages. The full journal was twenty. Should I read the whole thing? After all, the chapters were written, complete except for any editing I will do upon later contemplation. And having written two chapters from this document, I’m not likely to write another.

I was fascinated by this journal, however, and decided to read it all. I’m glad I did. Much of the removed material was of great interest to me. Austin described his route, including the towns he stayed in or the isolated farms he either found hospitality at or was rejected. I was able to trace his route on my road atlas. Some of the places still have the same names, such as Crab Orchard Kentucky.

Austin described the towns, and gave thoughts on their economic prospects. It’s interesting to see what he wrote about the prospects for places such as Louisville, and how he was correct about what it could become. I also found his constant bemoaning of the American government’s neglect of the areas he traveled through to be quite interesting (sorry, Joe F and Mrs. Rosen). The US government was busy trying to establish its place in the roll call of nations, develop governmental institutions, and figure out if a self-governing republic would really work. It was kind of to do all that and establish regional or civil governments in Cahoika or Kaskasia, or even Vincennes. I found in Austin’s words a third chapter, on the idea that even back in the late 1700s there were people who wanted the government to guarantee an outcome. But that chapter will have to wait for another volume.

The purpose of Austin’s trip was to see the lead mines in eastern Missouri. This was under Spanish dominion, so he needed certain letters and permissions to do this. I never knew that sixty miles south of Saint Louis, thirty or forty miles up from the Mississippi River, were rich lead deposits that were easily mined. But there was. The place names today reflect that: Leadwood, Irondale, Iron Mountain, Old Mines, Leadington. Missouri has an historic site there, called Missouri Mines State Historic Site. So I learned something in this extra research.

One other item of research to mention, something I haven’t done, and probably won’t. In The American Historical Review are many footnotes concerning journal entries. Mention is made of various original documents, such as American State Department papers, that would probably be good reading. Various secondary documents that further illustrate the points Austin makes are also cited. How wonderful it would be to find some of these documents and study further!

But, that would not make Documenting America a better book, I don’t think. I’m not writing a scholarly work, but a popular “history”, bringing lessons out of historical documents to see what lessons they hold for today’s America. Research for my own enjoyment won’t further that goal.

A Little Bit of Progress

I have two main writing tasks at present:

  1. Complete as many chapters as possible in the first volume of Documenting America.
  2. Complete the article I’m under contract to write for Safe Highway Matters.

On the second one, I’m having trouble getting hold of various sources the editor suggested. I’ve done all the research I can without talking to some people. I could almost write the article from the research, but really it would read much better, and I’m sure be more valuable, if I could get some quotes and some practical information in it. I hope I hope I hope today I’ll be able to reach some people. The article is due next Wednesday; only 400 words.

On Documenting America I’m making good progress. Last night I finished chapter 21. Unfortunately this took me a lot longer than I wanted, due to letting myself get caught up in the tentacles of research. This chapter is about the wilderness conditions the first settlers encountered on coming to America. The source is one I found in my 20 volume set of The Annals of America, an Encyclopedia Britannica product I picked up for $25 at a thrift store. Back before the Internet, that was my source for original documents. Now, of course, so much is on the Internet I don’t have to rely on that for original documents. But I still use it to find things and make decisions on what document to base a chapter on.

The document in question is a 1711 letter written by Rev. John Urmstone, a missionary/pastor in North Carolina, to his sponsoring organization, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The Annals have only an excerpt of the letter, and gave no biographical information about Urmstone. The excerpt was suitable for my purposes. Urmstone described the harsh conditions and the work he had to do just to survive, work that supposedly would prevent him from his work of propagating the gospel. However, the excerpt seemed to have a whiny tone, so I wanted to see the full letter if I could.

Through a simple Google search I found plenty. I didn’t find the whole letter (thought Wheaten College has it on microfilm if I want to drive eleven hours each way), but I did find a longer extract of the part in the Annals and I found extracts of two other parts. What I found was a lot of information on Urmstone. Rather than take too much time to write it out, here’s what one of his colleagues wrote about him to the same person in England: “Mr. Urmston is lame and says he cannot do now what he formerly has done, but this lazy distemper has seized him by what I hear ever since his coming to the country.” Wow! Not exactly a glowing recommendation.

So, that, and the other biographical information I found, puts the entire body of writing by Urmstone in question. His letters to England over ten years were constant complaints about his situation: no servants; little meat; unproductive land; slaves too expensive; wicked parishioners; etc. His description of the North Carolina wilderness is probably accurate, and I can still use is at the document for a chapter. But how much more interesting it is given the knowledge about the original writer. I shall have to have a later chapter on Urmstone, maybe one about how not everyone came to America for religious liberty reasons. Some, like the good reverend, really came for economic gain.

In all of this, I spent way too much time on research. I managed to pound out the chapter last night, not yet in polished form. But what should have taken me four hours took seven. Maybe the extra three will form the basis of an other chapter, maybe not. But I’ve got to get more efficient in my work if I’m ever going to finish the book.

The Joys of the Day

This morning, before work, after reading for a few enjoyable minutes in John Wesley’s letters, I had some additional time to do some genealogy work. So I went to the digital library of Brigham Young University (which I discovered only yesterday) and did some more experimentation on how to use the site. I searched for John Cheney, Lynda’s immigrant ancestor on her paternal line, going back to Newbury Massachusetts in 1636 and in Lawford and Mistley, Essexshire, England before that. The search in the “family history collection” returned 33 hits, which I began going through. Some I recognized. Oh, and I admit to taking some work time on this, not starting my business day right at straight up 8 AM. I shall have to make up some time.

One of the hits was a 100 page (approx.) typed manuscript dealing with Cheney families in England. It turned out it was mainly concerned with John Cheney’s English origins. While it did not have the full source citations it needs to have to be fully credible, it’s about the best document on the subject I’ve seen, and worthy of further study. So genealogy was a joy today.

Work was pretty good too. I spent two hours (in two different sessions) with a department head in our office who has a very difficult construction project. I’ve spent much time with him already on this project, but he had two new issues come up that he wanted to get my input on. Such a discussion is good, and enjoyable. I think we worked out the best possible response for him to make. Then it was off to Centerton to deal with the flood study that has plagued me for so long, and resolving one nagging question on the site topography. I’ve dreaded getting back on it, but cannot wait any longer. I finished writing a difficult specification today (another joy), and so I have non-distracted time I can put into this project and get it done. That would be a joy. Oh, wait, I have another one for the City I’ll have to do when I finish this one. At least it is a much simpler flood study. I did the complicated one first.

I left work more or less on time (I’ll make up my time another day) and went to the Bentonville library. Time in a library is always a joy. To be around thousands of books and a hundred different magazines, people studying, librarians working–that’s where I love to be. The hour passed all too quickly, but I found a magazine I might be able to pitch an article to.

Church was enjoyable, a Bible study in Daniel chapter 8.

Now here at home, I read twenty pages in the book I’m working on. Less than 60 pages to go, and it has been an enjoyable read. Now I’m in the Dungeon, on the computer. I worked 30 minutes on the current genealogy project, then this.

How much much joy can a day contain? If it weren’t for having robbed my employer of some time. That was the only blot on the day. Well, buying some chips too. But all in all, I wish all my days were like this.

Random Road Trip Thoughts

That’s random thoughts from a road trip, not thoughts on a random road trip, by the way. We returned yesterday after 3,700 plus miles, going to Oklahoma City (for grandson Ephraim’s first birthday party) by way of Rhode Island (for nephew Chris’ wedding). Here are some thoughts as I think of them.

– Arkansas has the most road kill per mile, by far. I say this even though only about 50 miles of the trip were in Arkansas.

– Gas prices are fairly equal from Oklahoma to New England. The lowest I saw was $1.779 per gallon around the Tulsa area. The most $2.099 in Rhode Island. That’s only an 18 percent difference. In 1990-91, when we made a couple of similar road trips between North Carolina and Arkansas, the price varied by more than 50 percent.

– Many New England towns are quaint and pleasant to drive through. The area between Worcester MA and Woonsocket RI is filled with towns such as Grafton, Upton, Uxbridge, Milford, and Sutton that have some type of central core (not so much a village green as a downtown, but different than the downtowns in the midwest) that is full of old buildings–churches, government offices, retail, residential–that are pleasant to drive by and observe. At several places I would have loved to have had the time to stop and wander around on foot.

– Rhode Island has the worst roads of any state we drove in. The Interstate highways were fine, but the roads a notch below that, the state highways, left much to be desires, and the city streets were generally awful.

– Pennsylvania may just be the most beautiful state in the nation. I know other states have higher mountains, more magnificent rivers, and mixtures of landscape and climate. But I love to drive I-80 across Pennsylvania. This is the Allegheny mountains much of the way, and pretty good sized hills for the rest. You don’t go through any towns or cities until the far eastern end, which we bypassed this time. Many times the road is on high bridges that tower above a river or stream below. Frequently the east-bound and west-bound lanes are on different grades, and you seem to be on a one way road. We took this in daylight both directions, and I enjoyed the 10 hours thoroughly.

– Judging by the truck traffic, the economic depression is not too deep. Except, the traffic is down on weekends and at nights compared to previous road trips I’ve taken. So while many trucks still transport their cargo on our Interstate highways, they are not pushing as hard as the did previously. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong about being in a depression that will last approximately eight years. But I’m not throwing in the towel on that yet.

– It’s good to get off the Interstates some. We did so at Toledo, where we spent a night, and went on state highways to Fort Wayne. Aside from being confused by the place names (in rapid succession we passed through or saw signs for Waterville–also a Vermont town we know–Grand Rapids–Ohio, not Michigan–Texas, Florida, Antwerp, and three or four similar well-known places not expected in northwest Ohio), and besides fighting rain, we enjoyed the brief chance to drive at slower speeds and see a new part of the country up close. Even being slowed down to pass through the towns was not all that bad.

– The genealogy section in the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is all it is cracked up to be. What a fantastic collection! I planned to spend an hour there, doing the small bit of research needed for my article, and wound up spending nearly six hours, as Lynda had some work to do there for renewing her nursing license. Since I hadn’t planned for that much time I was not well prepared for it, but hopefully used it well to search for one elusive line of ancestors and find more information on one of my well-studied ones.

This post is long enough already. I’ll have more to day in another post or two.

The Tentacles of Research

I find myself with more time on my hands while abstaining from computer games during Lent. Last night I used that time to return to research on Doctor Luke’s Assistant, things that have been nagging me and leaving me fearful that some things might not be historically accurate. So, using the miracle of search engines, I began this task.

In the book, I have the educated farmer, Jacob of Ain Karem, making ink from animal blood and keeping it in a container fashioned from a leg bone of an ox. Is this even possible? Would the blood congeal, even if mixed with something? Would it be absorbed into the bone? Or would it form a film, that maybe would prevent very much from absorbing? This may not be a major item, but I’d like to get it right.

So I searched for “ancient documents” and “ink”, and had the usual large number of hits, many of which were not germane. One, however, was to the book Forty Centuries Of Ink, by David N. Carvalho. Who knew such a book existing, or that it was on-line at . I haven’t yet found the answer to my question, but I have much more of this to read, and other links to pursue.

Then, since I’m preparing the correspondence of Augustus ben Adam, assistant to Doctor Luke, I wanted to research some expert references regarding ancient letters for form and content. I’ve done some of this already, but not as extensive as I’d like. So I searched for “ancient letters” and had thousands of returns, some amazing documents, either books or articles on-line, or blogs, or professors’ web sites. And these sites have hundreds of references to original sources they used. It’s a veritable treasure trove of information. When I am at home tonight, I will edit in some of the names of the originally found document and some of the references of interest. How I would love to access and read it all!

But, maybe I don’t need to go that far. While perhaps one article or book cannot be considered definitive, maybe two is enough for the purpose at hand. The derivative research, which would be more pleasure than research, will have to wait.