This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Reading old documents

I like reading old documents. That is, newspapers, books, etc., that were printed around the time that I am studying. No, I don't kid myself that the information in them in perfect, any more than I imagine an article in a modern newspaper is perfect. And the web seems to have made finding trustworthy information even more difficult.

Oddly enough, a lot of original documents are on the web. And I don't mean transcripts, I mean scans, that have been indexed using OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This means that you can search for things, but you are wise to actually look at the original document. OCR, and transcripts can have errors, you know.

I collect old photos of Phoenix and am studying its history, which appears to be a terrible tangle. Part of that tangle comes from good intentions, as history books have tried to *clean up* the image of the pioneers of Phoenix. Part of it is just the natural course of things, being written, and then copied, and then copied. It's not a conspiracy man, it's just the way that things tend to get repeated as mistakes are made, and never caught.

I don't like history books. I don't like fictionalized accounts. I don't want to be told what to think. I am willing to work to understand the facts. And believe me, reading old documents takes a LOT of work! Sometimes it's something as simple as the fact that the English language changes over the years. The meaning of something in 1877 may not be the same as nowadays. So it takes building a foundation of understanding. So I've read a lot of old documents, and a lot of old books. It's kind of like reading a foreign language, in a way, or reading music. You have to immerse yourself in it, if you try to translate it, much is lost.

If you're interested in finding out the truth about history, and the world, step away from simple answers, and authority figures. Turn off the Disney channel. Avoid people who say stuff like, *I heard somewhere...* Instead, find a newspaper that was printed yesterday. Then a book that was printed before you were born. Yes, you will get a reputation for being difficult to convince. I am not looking for an easy answer, I am looking for a preponderance of evidence. And it can still tip either way, as my journey of understanding continues.

Above: 1917 article about Phoenix pioneer George Loring, from the Library of Congress
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