ancestryink fisherman

Monday, February 17, 2014

Logs, Blogs, and Fake Family Trees

This being Monday, and at times "Maritime Monday" here, I thought I would share some fun etymology facts that are rooted in maritime traditions.

Have you ever wondered where the word "blog" really comes from?  Hmm, 'b-log'...blog. Blogs abound. They are referenced, referred to, aired in the media, used for sharing how-to tips, or for talking about genealogy...

 I Googled it. (Of course.)  Blogs have been in existence for so long now, we have probably all forgotten that the word is a combination of "web" and "log."  As in...ship's log!!  (Which, thank goodness, was never shortened to "shlog.")

Yes, a blog is a web journal or diary.  And like all things computer-related and subject to modern short-hand, the term "web log" was quickly pared down to simply "blog."

So, where did the definition of "log" as a diary or journal, originate?  Why a ship's "log?" 

Whaling log - "Cruising in the Coral Sea"


It's really quite wonderful -the reason.  Ships used to tow a tree log at the end of a line from the stern of the ship, to measure the ship's speed.  Afterwards, the log-keeper/author, (often the Second Mate) would record this speed into a ledger or journal, along with other events that would take place on board the ship.

Thus, "log" was literally referring to a tree trunk or piece of wood. And because, even historically, humans like to shorten words, sailors began by calling their journal a "log-book," but eventually shortened it to "log."  Original whaling logs are especially wonderful, with the added whale images in the margins, and notes of weather, and of men "taken by a whale."

Later, the wooden tree trunk was replaced by a lovely brass instrument.  Basically, an underwater speedometer.  I love the evolution of the nautical log.  And how, with "blog" we still 'tow behind us' this original meaning of the word log.


Now, on to other topics:

If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you never turn off your TV at the end of the show until you catch the previews of next week's episode.  This week, all heads turned to watch Mary walk off across the lawn with her three eager suitors....Who will it be that wins Mary's heart?

An NPR spot today (heard on my car radio) brought up an important research dilemma for genealogists:  Fake family trees are cropping up on various ancestral records websites, usually created by the amateur family tree "sleuth," and very often full of completely erroneous information.  The reason??  Folks like to "em-bell-ish" their roots.  Can you trace your ancestors all the way back to Adam??  Is your g-g-g-g grandfather a King??

So, this is the preview of what is to come in my next blog entry:  How do we sort out the fantastical family trees from the real thing?  Sometimes funny, often frustrating, learn how to avoid hitching your family tree to a fictional or false set of records and conclusions.  Stay tuned.

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