Yep! That depressing bit of news was one of the first things that greeted me this morning. A crawl line below ABC's "Good Morning America" explained that the designation was the result of two factors: the weather and unpaid bills. "Well," I thought, "I don't have all that many unpaid bills, unless you happen to count the charges on credit cards whose statements have not yet arrived in the mail." And yes, there was that terribly self-indulgent anniversary trip back in December, but I don't count anything it took me fifty years to earn. As for the weather, uh. . . . OK, it's cold, gray, gloomy, and wet out there, but here inside it's warm and peaceful and full of furry little felines who are happy to see me. The most depressing day of the year? Oh, I hope so, because this one isn't all that bad.
Just in case, however, there's one surefire way of beating off the gloomies: "Let's come up with a new project." I haven't been blogging much about my writing because I've been doing a lot of research and reading necessary before I can really get to work on my next book. I enjoy the time I spend with records and archives, but it doesn't often provide good meaty blogging material. Unless the research turns out to be a total disaster, of course. And that happens, I realize, more often than not.
History, I've always told my students, is not about cold hard facts. There are very few such facts, and the ones there are can be found with little effort. No, history is largely the story of what we THINK we know about a subject at any given time. And that means it is always subject to change. What we think we know has a way of sliding out from under us without warning.
With that in mind, it occurs to me that it might prove useful to compile my horror stories -- and those of other writers -- to serve as cautionary tales for the unwary researcher. This new year marks the beginning of the four-year observance of America's Civil War, so my own experiences with Civil War records may be particularly helpful to those who are inspired by the occasion to look at the stories of their own hometowns or ancestors.
Upcoming blog posts will deal with the following topics, although not in any particular order:
You get the idea. How about your own experiences with historical or genealogical research? What have you learned that might help others avoid certain pitfalls? I'll welcome your comments, your suggestions, and -- most of all -- offers to be a guest blogger and discuss your worst disasters.