Searching for the Origins of John Skudder (c. 1796 – 17 Jul 1866) and Mary (Russell) Skudder (c. 1802 – Feb 1864), both of Southwark, Surrey

“The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.”

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

I’ve often thought about these lines. And I’ve mused how they might apply, or not apply, to family history research. We look and look and look for the missing kernel of truth, the fact – the particular birth, the marriage, the death, and its dates – upon which we can build and expand and elaborate all the others that follow. But sometimes there is no kernel of truth. No one fact. Just a list of competing, though in the end not terribly different, theories. And the truth, if we are ever to know it, will be found not in one theory or another, proven correct or incorrect, but in the vague haze that surrounds all of them.

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