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Good history calls for a willingness to change our minds about the past

Where did we come from and how did we get here? The answer is necessarily complicated because it involves the intentions of others as well as our own. Yes, we are generated by others and, yes, we invent ourselves. We belong to the world of nature and yet we inherit and transmit a social world that frequently continues to be baffling and misunderstood. There is probably no single, once-and-for-all answer to our question.

Few of us continue to live in the place we were born. In the process of moving about we are both emigrants and immigrants though we hardly apply those terms to ourselves if we move only from one county to another. When we move from place to place we usually go with others; most often in families but sometimes the group is so large as to be called a migration. Only occasionally does a person strike off alone because unfamiliar territory can be dangerous. Even early explorers such as Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain had associates and supporters and their journeys were complicated joint ventures. Whether for exploration, commerce or adventure, people still wish to connect with those who precede us as well as those who succeed us. Genealogy is one way of doing this.