JANUS am I; oldest of potentates;
Forward I look, and backward, and below
I count, as god of avenues and gates,
The years that through my portals come and go.
- From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Poet’s Calendar
The ancient Roman god Janus invoked by Longfellow in the poem fragment above was in charge of doors, gates and portals in ancient times. He is often portrayed on Roman coins with two faces – one face looks forward, while the other looks backward. For that reason, he’s called the god of new beginnings.
Since today is the first weekday of January at the beginning of a brand new year, it seems like the perfect time to look forward, especially since most of the time I write about doing history and genealogy – which is most certainly the “looking backward” part.
After all, for a genealogist, looking backward is where it’s at. And that’s what Mnemosyne’s magic mirror lets us do.
What lies ahead for the blog during 2011? Current plans look like this:
First of all, I’ll be doing some looking backward and discussing the idea of memory and its role in the preservation of family history. Specifically, I’ll be writing from time to time about how memories are formed, preserved and transmitted in families, how memory can be fickle and untrue (but still altogether pleasing) and about the things that can act as memory “triggers”, especially for those of us who do any kind of oral history.
Next, I’ll be looking at books – specifically, some of the titles that I think contain some special relevance to the kind of research that we do. Some will be new-ish, but most will be things that you probably never heard discussed in genealogy circles. I’ll try and demonstrate why I think that the book's important and deserving of your attention. Occasionally, there will be a link to the Jonathan Sheppard Books website if we’ve catalogued something especially interesting.
I’ll also be writing about some of the things I’ve experienced that have made me a better researcher. Sometimes, I’ll be talking about a technique that I’ve used in some other non-genealogy field that turned out to have some particular utility in genealogical research. Other times, I’ll be directing your attention elsewhere, to unusual sources of information – often archival - that you may not have heard about yet.
Finally, I’ll be writing about those periodic flashes that appear on Mnemosyne’s magic mirror. I can’t tell you exactly what they are going to be, since I can’t see too far into the future. Sometimes they’ll be autobiographical, occasionally they’ll be stories about folks I’ve been researching and sometimes they’ll be pieces written in the spirit of advocacy – since if we’re not passionate about the things we do, why bother doing them at all?
I'll also try to keep you posted on conferences, lectures and the like.
All I can say is that if I write about it here, it’s likely to be something that I just had to talk about and something that I hope you’ll be interested enough to read about.