• Inspiration
  • Jul19

    No Comments

    Back when my wife and I bought our new house, one of the first things that needed to be done was to raze the overgrown front yard that didn’t look like it had been touched since Nixon resigned. (I blame Nixon for all of my own failures to finish projects.)

    As I tangled with tons of ivy and yelled at yellowing yucca, I saw we had a bigger problem to deal with – the wood in our steps and a retaining wall was infested with termites. So, I ripped it all out immediately and began to devise a replacement.

    After some thought, I purchased several skids of Pennsylvania wall stone and other supplies, then spent several weeks building things back, all by hand. My technique was to lay out all the stone on the ground, then scan for the next “right” stone – and go until done.

    I found that within each skid of stone I had picked there happened to be some larger flat pieces – which led me to build the part I’m most proud of – the new steps.

    It was terrifically hard work at times, but I was gratified in the outcome. Until today I had completely attributed my apparent innate ability in this regard to my Czech grandfather, who was a stone mason. He worked in the cemeteries of Queens and also built a summer home and garage in upstate New York out of native stone.

    But, after seeing a photo today, I now think my stonework ability is more likely an inheritance shared by both my Czech and Irish sides. Behold a photo of stone steps on Skellig Michael alongside my own off the cuff handiwork…

    Skellig Steps Comparison

    By the way – no mortar was used in my steps or wall, only gravity.

  • Aug10

    13 Comments

    When I recently began getting more serious about my genealogical research after several years of dabbling, I began to think about possible blog names to document my journey. As an information technology professional with expertise in information security, Hacking Your Ancestors first occurred to me as a potential blog name.

    Then it also occurred to me that that name was slightly more homicidal than I’d intended.
    Plus, my good axe is just now at the cleaners.

    I may still use that blog name if I decide to write more on techniques and tools and how some tactics of an infosec professional mesh nicely with those of the genealogist.

    But, in this blog I hope to focus more on the journey of discovery that almost inevitably occurs when researching one’s own family and how they fit into history. It likely helps when you have only limited clues to much of your family history, making the search that much more surprising and interesting.

    Group Photo: Egans of Creggan, Ferbane, Ireland on Flickr As I find more documentation of the lives of my forebears I feel a strangely stronger sense of the parallel linearity of theirs and mine. While I cannot claim that records and documents give a clear insight into our ancestors’ personalities, there is a glimpse of dreams or, at least, hope that this new country held promise beyond their original ken.

    Such a trip requires a vehicle, whether it is ridden or written. The sadly late poet John O’Donohue’s poem Beannacht, or Blessing offers some solace from the pulling weight of the land, the dimming vision of time and leads our boat, or Currach, on a protected path home with a healing cloak of wind.

    Listen to his words below.

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


    Beannacht recited by John O’Donohue on NPR’s Speaking of Faith

    Read More | Comments